-Letter of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Rumanian Patriarch, 1937
(Pictured, Archbishop Meletios of Alexandria and Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Lang in 1930)
This process began as Orthodox Patriarchs and other Orthodox Bishops recognized, one by one, the validity of Anglican Orders and sent letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury to that effect. The first came in 1922, from Constantinople (as it is called when referring to the Patriarchate- instead of Istanbul). Soon after in 1923 came letters from Jerusalem, and then from the Archbishop of Cyprus. In 1923 came a letter from the Patriarch of Alexandria. In 1936, the Orthodox Church of Romania sent a letter, also recognizng the validity of Anglican Orders. (2)
The Orthodox Church has in it many people who are now embarrassed, some to the point of denial. The Anglicans of today have, in many places, earned a bad reputation, winking at more than mere innovation; approving of what the Bible calls "abominations." How can the scandalized Orthodox accept the fact that their Church, "the One True Church," was ever considering real unity with people like the Episcopalians- a church with priestesses, bishopettes and at least one Ordinary living in a same sex union? Well, the fact is that they were never considering unity with such people. The Anglicans that they were talking with up until 1976, had at that time approved none of these errors. In fact, the Anglicans were so highly regarded that here, in Amercia, when Orthodox Christians lived very far away from an Orthodox Church, they received special letters from the Orthodox Hierarchy giving them permission to attend the Episcopal Church and to receive the sacraments- including the Holy Communion of Christ's Body and Blood (and so throughout the countries where the Anglican Churches could meet this need). Today, with Orthodox Churches in most major cities and towns, this situation does not exist (Orthodox people who remember this are still alive).
Was this because the Orthodox Patriarchs were a bit thick, and carelessly allowed themselves to be duped by deceitful Anglicans, "Protestants in Catholic clothing?" Having too much respect for their diligence and godly character to imagine such a thing, we must believe that they understood what Anglicanism really was. Furthermore, the kind of Anglicans who were at the highest levels of leadership, and who were in direct communication with the Orthodox Church, believed in the same Catholic Faith as we who Continue the Faith of our fathers. The irony is obvious. Thanks to the same heretics who drove us out, into Athanasian style exile, it may be a long time before the Orthodox Church, represented by any of its Patriarchates, will be willing to enter into serious discussions with any Anglicans. But, when the time comes, they ought to talk to us, not to the Canterbury Club.
(In those decades the Church of England had begun an endeavor to seek Reunion with Rome, and to help make their Orders more acceptable to Rome in the hope of that eventual Reunion as a genuine possibility. If true unity could have been acheived, however long it took, think of the implications. No more Great Schism- talk about the Bridge Church was not empty rhetoric. More on that later.)
(1) As quoted in Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue: The Dublin Agreed Statement, (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985), p.3
(2) Orthodox Statements on Anglican Orders
Encyclical on Anglican Orders from the Oecumenical Patriarch to the Presidents of the Particular Eastern Orthodox Churches, 1922
[The Holy Synod has studied the report of the Committee and notes:] 1. That the ordination of Matthew Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury by four bishops is a fact established by history. 2. That in this and subsequent ordinations there are found in their fullness those orthodox and indispensable, visible and sensible elements of valid episcopal ordination - viz. the laying on of hands, the Epiclesis of the All-Holy Spirit and also the purpose to transmit the charisma of the Episcopal ministry. 3. That the orthodox theologians who have scientifically examined the question have almost unanimously come to the same conclusions and have declared themselves as accepting the validity of Anglican Orders. 4. That the practice in the Church affords no indication that the Orthodox Church has ever officially treated the validity of Anglican Orders as in doubt, in such a way as would point to the re-ordination of the Anglican clergy as required in the case of the union of the two Churches. ================================================================
The Patriarch of JERUSALEM, 1923
The Patriarch of Jerusalem wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the name of his Synod on March 12, 1923, as follows: To His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, First Hierarch of All England, our most beloved and dear brother in our Lord Jesus, Mgr. Randall. Greeting fraternally your beloved to us, Grace, we have the pleasure to address to you the following: Yesterday we dispatched to Your Grace the following telegram: ‘We have pleasure inform Your Grace that Holy Synod of our Patriarchate after studying in several meetings question Anglican Orders from Orthodox point view resolved their validity.' Today, explaining this telegram, we inform Your Grace that the Holy Synod, having as a motive the resolution passed some time ago by the Church of Constantinople, which is the church having the First Throne between the Orthodox Churches, resolved that the consecrations of bishops and ordinations of priests and deacons of the Anglican Episcopal Church are considered by the Orthodox Church as having the same validity which the Orders of the Roman Church have, because there exist all the elements which are considered necessary from an Orthodox point of view for the recognition of the grace of the Holy Orders from Apostolic Succession. We have great pleasure in communicating to Your Grace, as the First Hierarch of all the Anglican Churches, this resolution of our Church, which constitutes a progress in the pleasing-to-God work of the union of all Churches, and we pray God to grant to Your Grace many years full of health and salvation.
February 27/March 12, 1923 Official translation published in The Christian East, vol. IV, 1923, pp. 121-122. The Archbishop of the autonomous Church of Sinai expressed for his Church adherence to the decisions of Constantinople and Jerusalem.
The Archbishop of CYPRUS, 1923
The Archbishop of Cyprus wrote to the Patriarch of Constantinople in the name of his Synod on March 20, 1923, as follows: To His All-Holiness the Oecumenical Patriarch Mgr. Meletios we send brotherly greeting in Christ. Your Holiness – Responding readily to the suggestion made in your reverend Holiness' letter of August 8, 1922, that the autocephalous Church of Cyprus under our presidency should give its opinion as to the validity of Anglican Orders we have placed the matter before the Holy Synod in formal session. After full consideration thereof it has reached the following conclusion: It being understood that the Apostolic Succession in the Anglican Church by the Sacrament of Order was not broken at the Consecration of the first Archbishop of this Church, Matthew Parker, and the visible signs being present in Orders among the Anglicans by which the grace of the Holy Spirit is supplied, which enables the ordinand for the functions of his particular order, there is no obstacle to the recognition by the Orthodox Church of the validity of Anglican Ordinations in the same way that the validity of the ordinations of the Roman, Old Catholic, and Armenian Church are recognized by her. Since clerics coming from these Churches into the bosom of the Orthodox Church are received without reordination we express our judgment that this should also hold in the case of Anglicans – excluding intercommunio (sacramental union), by which one might receive the sacraments indiscriminately at the hands of an Anglican, even one holding the Orthodox dogma, until the dogmatic unity of the two Churches, Orthodox and Anglican, is attained. Submitting this opinion of our Church to Your All-Holiness, we remain, Affectionately, the least of your brethren in Christ,
Cyril of Cyprus
Archbishopric of Cyprus. March 7/20, 1923 Published in The Christian East, vol. IV, 1923, pp. 122-123.
The Patriarch of ALEXANDRIA, 1930
After the Lambeth Conference of 1930, the Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria found itself able to join in the recognition of Anglican Orders. The decision was announced in a letter from the Patriarch to the Archbishop of Canterbury as follows: To the Most Reverend Dr. Cosmo Lang, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England, Greetings in the New Born Christ The Feast of the Nativity, according to the Flesh, of the Redeemer of our Souls being a most suitable occasion for us, as it were, to visit your Beatitude, our friend, by means of a letter, we come to you hereby with a heart that is filled alike with joy, that "unto us is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord," and with fervent prayers both for your health and for the peace and stability of the holy Churches of God over which you preside. At the same time, together with our greetings for the Feast, we send you as our gift the news, which we are sure will be good news, to you, that having derived the greatest gratification from the accounts which it has received, both of the marks of honor which were rendered in London, alike by your Grace and by the general body of your Church, to the office which is ours, and also of the happy results which by the favouring breath of the Holy Spirit have emerged from the contact of the Orthodox Delegation with the Lambeth Conference, our Holy Synod of the Metropolitans of the Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne of Alexandria has proceeded to adopt a resolution recognizing the validity, as from the Orthodox point of view, of the Anglican Ministry. The text of that resolution is as follows: "The Holy Synod recognizes that the declarations of the Orthodox, quoted in the Summary, were made according to the spirit of Orthodox teaching. Inasmuch as the Lambeth Conference approved the declarations of the Anglican Bishops as a genuine account  of the teaching and practice of the Church of England and the Churches in communion with it, it welcomes them as a notable step towards the Union of the two Churches. And since in these declarations, which were endorsed by the Lambeth Conference, complete and satisfying assurance is found as to the Apostolic Succession, as to a real reception of the Lord's Body and blood, as to the Eucharist being thusia hilasterios  (Sacrifice), and as to Ordination being a Mystery, the Church of Alexandria withdraws its precautionary negative to the acceptance of the validity of Anglican Ordinations, and, adhering to the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, of July 28, 1922, pronounces that if priests, ordained by Anglican Bishops, accede to Orthodoxy, they should not be re-ordained, as persons baptized by Anglicans are not rebaptized." We rejoice to see the middle wall of partition being thrown down more and more, and we congratulate your Beatitude that under God you have had the felicity of taking the initiative in furthering that work. May the Lord Who was born in Bethlehem give to you and to us the happiness of its completion. In Alexandria upon the Feast of Christ's Nativity, 1930 Your Beatitude's Beloved Brother in Christ
Meletios of Alexandria
In reporting this decision to the Oecumenical Patriarch Meletios emphasized that his Synod was acting on the basis that the statements made at Lambeth had removed their former hesitation "as to the teaching of the Anglican Church upon the mysteries and Apostolic succession," and could be held to have met the desire expressed by the Romanian Patriarch in replying to Constantinople in 1925, when he wrote, But in order to make a definite pronouncement, we desire especially that the Anglican Church herself should precise her doctrine concerning the holy mysteries and particularly concerning orders: does she hold it to be a mystery or not? Since that requirement had now been satisfied, wrote Meletios, It is proper that the validity of Anglican Orders should now be recognized by all Orthodox Churches. For that which, according to the same letter, was "one of the most serious obstacles in the way of the Union of the two Churches," has been "removed." Letter published in The Christian East, vol. XII, 1931, pp. 1-6, with notes as above; the quotation in Note 2 is from No. 11 in the Resume of the Lambeth Discussions, reprinted below, p. 22.
 The words in the Resolution of the Lambeth Conference are "sufficient account."  We transliterate the term, thusia hilasterios, and do not translate it by propitiatory sacrifice, or expiatory sacrifice, because, as generally used, these terms present conceptions which are not attached by the Orthodox to thusia hilasterios. The words used by the Anglican Bishops in their discussions with the Orthodox Delegation, as recorded in the Resume, and endorsed by the Lambeth Conference are: "… that the Anglican Church teaches the doctrine of Eucharistic Sacrifice as explained in the Answer of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to Pope Leo XIII, on Anglican Ordinations: and also that in the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Anglican Church prays that ‘by the merits and death of Thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in His Blood, we and all Thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of His Passion,' as including the whole company of faithful people, living and departed." Lambeth Conference Report, 1930,