The Russian Orthodox Church has expressed its regret over the decision by the Church of England to allow women bishops, saying it is a diversion from the “initial church order” and follows “modern liberal trends.”
Metroplitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Orthodox church’s external relations, told Interfax-Religion July 17: “The Orthodox Church takes a negative stance on so-called female priesthood and female episcopacy.
“We see this process as representing the diversion of the Anglican Church and a whole range of Protestant denominations from the initial church order and as following modern liberal trends. We regret that such decisions have been made.”
He said such a move does not bring Christian communities closer to the unity which ecumenical meetings claim to aspire to. “The space for dialogue is narrowing down at the fault of our partners,” he said, “and it is with great regret that we have to state this.”
“The presence of women in the episcopate shuts for us the door to any discussion on the issue of succession in the Anglican episcopate,” Metropolitan Hilarion said, but added that the Russian Church would continue to maintain dialogue with Anglicans in the hope of its voice being heard.
The Russian Orthodox Church began a dialogue with the Anglican Church immediately after the latter came into being in the 16th century. Since then, the Church of England has repeatedly made various attempts to come closer to the Russian Church but has never sought to resolve their disputes over dogma.
Relations between the Russian Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion soured in the second half of the 20th century and have remain strained.
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales said the Church of England’s decision “sadly places a further obstacle on the path to this unity between us”, but added that the Catholic Church was nevertheless “committed to continuing our ecumenical dialogue, seeking deeper mutual understanding and practical cooperation wherever possible.”