It seems the agreed statement of the Anglican–Oriental Orthodox International Commission last month has barely been noticed. (The story is here, the picture above is the official photo of the statement’s signing, and the statement – PDF – is here.) Possibly this is because it only talked about revising the creed, rather than about sex. However, since it cites as accepted theological agreement previous statements which likewise sunk without trace, perhaps it too is seeking to become doctrine by stealth.
Now, that’s a tendentious way to put it, but – apart from previous statements read only by the cognoscenti – it rides on the back of little more than a Lambeth Conference motion (Lambeth Conference 1978 Resolution 35.3) which requested
that all member Churches of the Anglican Communion should consider omitting the Filioque from the Nicene Creed, and that the Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission through the Anglican Consultative Council should assist them in presenting the theological issues to their appropriate synodical bodies.
(I should explain: this means dropping the phrase “and the Son” from the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed as a late Western addition to the original, so that it says “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified.” This appears as a Common Worship resource which “may be used on suitable ecumenical occasions“.)
This Lambeth motion was itself a fairly timid response to a 1976 agreed statement of an Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue. And, to the best of my admittedly sketchy knowledge, it has largely been ignored outside of a relatively small subset of ecumaniacs. Anglicans broadly understand what dialogue, for example, with Roman Catholics means, and have a hazy grasp of its importance. They are the Christians who worship just down the road, in ways that are recognizably similar if a bit exotic at times. But for most English Anglicans the Oriental Orthodox are almost unknown, and if the image conjures anything for the person in the pew, it is a group of beardy-weirdies in black with funny hats, who (we’re sure) are perfectly nice people if a bit foreign.
When you add to the presumed strangeness of the Oriental Orthodox that the Dublin statement concerns the doctrine of God, you also have to take into account several generations of vaguely dismissive Anglican comment on the nightmare of preaching on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. One’s parish church is an unlikely place to learn of the ways in which the essential (God in Godself) and economic (God in his acts of and in creation) Trinity relate to one another, far less why it might be a matter of some importance to anyone outside the Groves of Academe, or indeed fourth century Cappadocia.
Any Anglican-Orthodox statement on the doctrine of the Trinity is thus esotericism squared, and the first thing a good practical down-to-earth pew-filling Anglican will do with such angelic pin-dancing is ignore it.
I do not share these views, but they make it very hard for me to imagine how the Church of England (whose General Synod is not exactly noted for theological acumen) might even begin to have a serious conversation about the Filioque. It concerns arguments about authority in the church, the Father as the source of Godhead safeguarding the divine unity against accusations of tritheism, and how the revelatory story of Jesus and philosophical monism might mutually relate. To name but three.
However, to come finally to the point, the essential fig-leaf worn by the House of Bishops in these denuding times of rapid change, has been that Anglican doctrine is still fundamentally to be found in the Book of Common Prayer, whose creed admits to no variants for suitable ecumenical occasions, but as a liturgy of the Western Church, incorporates the Filioque with no hint of controversy, and repeats it equally bluntly in the fifth of its articles of religion.
This agreed statement from the Anglican–Oriental Orthodox International Commission effectively says the BCP (and the fifth article) are wrong, and must therefore be changed in the name of theological integrity and ecumenical charity.
And no-one seems even to have noticed.