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Anglican/Orthodox Pilgrim Newsletter

Vol. 2, No. 3

An Interview with Bishop Kallistos (Ware), Part II

A: How would you advise or respond to Anglicans, especially in the United States, who are saying we should stay within the Episcopal Church, come what may, and keep on fighting, rather than become Orthodox?

W: This is a very delicate question. I have personal friends, whom I respect, who say we hold to the Orthodox faith, but we believe we should stay where we are as Anglicans and strive to bring Anglicanism over to that [faith]. And this for a time was my position when I discovered Orthodoxy. I thought, no, I must stay where I am and bear witness to the light that I've been shown in Orthodoxy and live it out in Anglicanism. I found it impossible to do both.

But I do not wish to condemn those Anglicans who feel that for them they can live out their Orthodoxy within Anglicanism. But I think that is becoming increasingly difficult for them to do; it is incomparably more difficult now than it was forty years ago.

And I would be bound to say to such Anglicans that though you believe the Orthodox faith, yet the way in which you believe it bothers me because you cannot believe it as the faith taught by your church. You can only believe it as your own pride and opinion because we know there are very many in your church who hold and teach very different opinions. Therefore, though you believe the Orthodox faith, yet the basis on which you believe it is not because it is the authoritative teaching of your church, but because you personally have chosen to believe it—this is very protestant in orientation. I respect the integrity of such people, but I feel in the end they lack a sound ecclesial basis for their position. If they came to talk to me I would be bound to say: you must think very seriously about this problem.

I'm also disturbed by the congregationalism I have found in Anglicanism. There are those who say: well the parish I go to will not have women to serve as priests so I will just worship and receive the Sacrament there. What kind of ecclesiology forms the basis for this when there are other parishes where there are women priests?

And so I would be bound to say to Anglicans of Orthodox persuasion: can you really be Orthodox in a small way without being Orthodox in a large way? And only within Orthodoxy can you have the firm authority for believing and teaching what you do.

A: What problems would you see an Anglican, lay person or priest, facing who chose to enter into Orthodoxy?

W: It is not easy to be Orthodox. First of all, not speaking of more spiritual things, it's likely to require a greater sacrifice of time and money from the laity. You may well be living a distance from an Orthodox church. The Orthodox services are long. If you are, in a committed way, going to follow the Orthodox faith, you face the difficulty of Easter falling on a different date—that means perhaps a series of sacrifices by yourself and your family: expensive travel, taking special leave from work, having your children out from school, so there are a range of sacrifices there.

Clearly for Anglican clergy, the sacrifices are likely to be very much greater. Even if they are to be ordained as Orthodox priests, that might not happen at once, they might not have a parish to provide them with support, and they might perhaps have to look for a job and these are hard times on both sides of the Atlantic.

So one does not underestimate the degree of sacrifice that is required. And anyone seeking to be Orthodox needs to look very carefully at the practicality and to be aware of the possible sacrifices. Whenever one comes to me looking to be Orthodox, I say, take a good look before you come and then, after you come, don't grumble.

But then spiritually there are going to be sacrifices required. There is a Western Rite to Orthodoxy in the United States. The problem there is that the Western Rite Orthodox parishes are often very isolated from their fellow Orthodox.

Most Anglicans who become Orthodox though are likely to find the only Orthodox parishes near them are in the tradition of St. John Chrysostom—the Byzantine Rite. I do not see the Byzantine Rite in any way exhaustive or oriental and impossible for a westerner to engage in—I don't think that is true. But there will be needed a real effort to learn new ways of the faith. The need to learn foreign languages is less in America than it is in Britain. But again, very possibly, you will find the only parish near you is still using a substantial amount of Greek or Slavonic. And that's another possible sacrifice. It's important to take a sober look at all these problems.

It's likely that converts will also mind very much the jurisdictional fragmentation that I've already mentioned. They join the Orthodox Church because they believe it to be the one true church of Christ. It is, therefore, very painful that we do not find one local Orthodox Church in the United States but instead a number of parallel jurisdictions. And again that is something one must look at very seriously before becoming Orthodox and not mind afterwards.

Yet I believe all these sacrifices can be life creating and infinitely well rewarding. And all the sorrows that a convert is likely to feel in Orthodoxy can be life creating sorrows. I would add as an Orthodox I found great comfort and much love from the "native Orthodox."

A: Your Grace, what strengths and also what dangers do Anglicans coming into Orthodoxy bring?

W: One strength, especially if they come from the evangelical aspect of Anglicanism, is that they're likely to have a good knowledge of the Bible, which Orthodox often do not. Another gift of Anglicanism is honesty and diversity; of course, that is also what is the cause of the problem of comprehensiveness and I think the honest search for the truth is the characteristic of Anglicanism at its best and respect for people's conscience and these two are things we need in Orthodoxy.

What I as an Anglican coming to Orthodoxy value as being among other things the richness of the liturgical tradition. The marvelous treasures of mystical theology in Orthodoxy and above all a sense of freedom very different from the freedom of Anglicanism, the fact that I know the liturgy is celebrated in the same way throughout the Orthodox church, that you do not have to look at each Orthodox parish and say, now what is their doctrinal position and does their priest do things in the right way, but the freedom of having one Divine liturgy everywhere, that I found a liberation and the freedom of knowing that my faith was the faith of all those who are worshipping with you, that I found a great gift.

A: Your Grace, since we are somewhat short on time, let me ask just one more question. An Anglican looking at Orthodoxy might very well ask, why won't the Orthodox go through the exact same problems the Anglicans have gone through only about 100 years latter?

W: The Orthodox will certainly have to face very many of the same questions. The challenges the feminist movement presents to Anglicanism we Orthodox will certainly have to face. The whole question of the ordination of women and the broader ministry of women in the church is one that Orthodox will have to face. But I believe from the Tradition of Orthodoxy, the living Tradition, we can find answers and that it will not prove the disintegrating experience that it has proved for Anglicans. Though I believe that while our tradition remains in many ways a hidden treasure, yet there is strength there that we can discover that will enable us to respond to these challenges.

A: Thank you for your time, Your Grace.

Conversion: A Priest's Wife's Perspective

Remarks delivered by Dianna Olnhausen at the Anglican/Orthodox Conference held in Chicago, Illinois.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am Dianna Olnhausen, the wife of William. My Husband and I have been married for 26 years. We have 2 children, a daughter Jennifer, 23, and a son David who is 21. For 21 of our 26 years together, Bill was vicar and then rector of St. Boniface Episcopal Church in Mequon, Wisconsin, where we still live and where he is now pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Mission.

According to the agenda, I've been asked to give you a "women's perspective," and by that I presume I am to relate how converting to Orthodoxy affected me personally and how it affected our family life. I hope what I say this afternoon may be of some help to you on your journey. If what I say is unclear or confusing, please feel free to ask questions.

I stand before you this afternoon with a feeling of dejavu, and it is an uncomfortable feeling. Not so very long ago, I too was anxious about my future in The Episcopal Church and yet, as I moved toward Orthodoxy, I was hesitant and unsure about what lay ahead of me there. Moreover, Bill as a clergyman, had the opportunity to develop a network of sympathetic Orthodox priest friends, many of them former Episcopalians, to turn to for advice. I wasn't so fortunate; I was shunned by the other Episcopal clergywives, even the few traditionalists, who were afraid that what had possessed Bill and me might be contagious. I knew few Orthodox clergywives and no one who had gone through what I was experiencing. I was distressed, fearful—and very much alone.

I wrote in the third issue of The Anglican/Orthodox Pilgrim that when I married Bill, I expected major changes in my life, but I never expected that one of them would be converting to Orthodoxy. Indeed, a casual observer of my childhood would be surprised to see me in church at all! And it was by the merest fluke that I became an Episcopalian. Although I was baptized as an infant in the Presbyterian Church, I had little exposure to religion until I was in my early teens. My parents divorced when I was 5 years old, and two years later my mother married a secular Jew, a dear man who was so severely traumatized by the early deaths of his own parents and the holocaust that he early on lost any faith he may have had.

Oddly enough, however, his own disbelief did not forbid church attendance; in fact, the church provided him with a welcome respite from raising three rambunctious step-children On Sunday mornings, my mother would drop my younger brothers and me off at the local Protestant community church for Sunday School and worship, and then she would return home to read the Sunday paper and eat a leisurely breakfast with my dad. As soon as her car turned the corner, however, my brothers and I took the quarters each of us had been given for the offering plate and walked three blocks to the local candy store to buy licorice whips and jawbreakers. We were, of course, always waiting in front of the church when Mom came back two hours later to pick us up, and it took her almost a year to realize that we weren't bringing home any religious artwork or church bulletins. When the truth finally dawned on her, my mother was so mortified that she immediately took steps to remedy our lack of religious training. One of her happiest memories was that of attending skating parties with an Episcopal youth group as a teenager, and on the strength of those memories, she began attending (with us in tow) a local Episcopal parish. At 14 I was confirmed but dropped away almost immediately.

At 20, I returned to The Episcopal Church—a troubled, unhappy young woman—seeking friendship and a source of stability for my life. To my surprise, I, the prodigal daughter, was warmly welcomed. I began attending the Holy Eucharist every Sunday, joined a women's group, and volunteered to teach Sunday School. The Church quickly became the center of my life. A year latter Bill arrived as curate; the following year we were married, and when he became vicar of St. Boniface in 1968, we moved to Mequon, where we spent 21 years trying to build a parish (with only a moderate amount of success) committed to the Faith once delivered to the Saints. Our parishioners were friendly and caring Factions never took hold, and many in the community were attracted to the warm fellowship.

Bill and I were actively involved in the Diocese of Milwaukee; in 1976 we were deputies to the Minneapolis convention which opened the priesthood to women, and speaking from hindsight, we should have started looking for another church home then. I don't think, however, that Orthodoxy would have been an option at that time—at least for me. I had attended one Orthodox service, the Divine Liturgy done in Slavonic, shortly after Bill and I were married, and it seemed very foreign. The thought of becoming Orthodox never entered my mind.

As I said, we should have started looking for another church home in 1976, but Bill and I were committed to "fighting the good fight" in The Episcopal Church, convinced that we, and others like us, could bring that denomination to its senses by being faithful witnesses to "mere Christianity." As diocese after diocese crumbled under the liberal onslaught and traditionalist groups like the Evangelical and Catholic Mission wavered this way and that, we became increasingly discouraged and parochial. We withdrew from ECM; Bill devoted himself to parish life at St. Boniface; and we avoided the Diocese of Milwaukee whenever possible, attending diocesan gatherings only at the express command of the local bishop. We were deeply discouraged and very pessimistic.

That all began to change in 1985 when Bill took a sabbatical and went to Greece for 3 weeks to attend a conference on Orthodoxy. When he returned home, he was a changed man literally—his mental attitude had take a 180 degree turn. He was excited, happy, and brimming with enthusiasm about the Church in a way I had not seen for many years. Although, at the time, Bill said he had not made a decision, he told me that he wanted to study Orthodoxy further with a view to perhaps converting to Orthodoxy someday. I think in my heart I knew that Bill had already made the decision, but he would wait for me to grow into it. He would not—obviously could not—force me to become Orthodox, and he wouldn't go without my wholehearted agreement.

Believe me it wasn't an easy decision to grow into. I loved my husband and he was so miserably unhappy as faith and order disintegrated in The Episcopal Church. Yet, Anglo-Catholic though I was, committed to the Faith, and upset by the theological and moral splintering of The Episcopal Church, I was reluctant to leave it. And it was more than just a case of sticking with the "devil you know." There were a number of questions to be answered—not the least of which was "How would we live?" bill was, and is,k a fine priest, but he was completely unprepared to work in the modern business world. Where would we live? We had lived in parish-owned rectories all of our married life and would have to find housing. The average Mequon house costs $150,000, hardly affordable on a working clergyman's salary, let alone affordable for an unemployed one. How would we pay for our children's college educations? Jenny was already at the University of Minnesota when we made the break, and money for David's education would also be needed. We had some money in savings, but that wouldn't last forever. I was also concerned about ethnic and cultural differences. How would we ethnic Episcopalians fit into what from the outside appeared to be an alien environment? Lastly, and most importantly for me as a mother, was the question of whether our children—then in their late teens—would convert to Orthodoxy with us.

If I had waited for all of these issues to be fully resolved, I probably would not have made the jump. I did, however, out of fairness to Bill, begin reading about Orthodoxy, attending Orthodox lectures, and most important of all, participating in Orthodox worship. In the beginning though, Bill often went to Orthodox gatherings without me I just didn't want to deal with the change that was coming—much sooner than I had anticipated. I especially dreaded going to Divine Liturgy on those Sundays when we could slip away from St. Boniface; I loved Anglican liturgy; it was familiar, comforting, and beautiful, while the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom seemed interminable and such a jumble, even in English.

Two things helped me begin to sort matters out. First, as I seriously began studying the Orthodox faith, I came to realize just how orthodox (with a small "o", of course) I already was. There was a faith delivered to the Saints and universally practiced by nearly all Christians at all times. Day by day, week by week, year by year, in living "mere Christianity," I was living Orthodoxy. And when I started to see Orthodoxy as an end in itself, rather than just a means to an end (that is, escaping from The Episcopal Church), my devotion to it began to grow and worshipping with the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom took on a profound holiness for me. From that moment, I ceased simply being an observer and began experiencing the Kingdom of Heaven in a way that I had never known it before.

The second thing that helped was that I got a grip on my irrational fears about the future. I truly believe that Satan really didn't want me to know about Orthodoxy, to learn to love it, and to let it work salvation in my life. I felt a strong personal presence pulling me away from Orthodoxy, but I also felt a stronger presence pulling me toward it. I think my guardian angel walloped a demon, and I thank God he did.

Gradually these problems did begin to work themselves out. Bill brought the spiritual heart (approximately 15 people) out of St. Boniface and organized a small Orthodox mission with it. (I hasten to add that St. Nicholas has since grown to 75+ members.) We've been warmly welcomed and received by cradle Orthodox who delight in seeing Orthodoxy afresh through our eyes. Bill and I bought a small condominium to live in—a fish shanty by Mequon standards, but home enough for us. Jennie graduates from the University of Minnesota in June, and our savings account is still in the black, although I have considered taking a second job to help David through. And best of all, our self-described "fuddy-duddy" son who hates change of any kind became a catechumen on Palm Sunday and hopefully will be chrismated before he returns to school in the fall. Jennie is still a question mark, but I continue to hope and pray.

Would I do it again? Yes, I can say without hesitation that I would. Orthodoxy has given me a Church to be proud of, one to which I, like Philip, can wholeheartedly invite others to "Come and See." But, if you come, do not expect to see the perfect Church. There are sinners in the Orthodox Church; after all Bill and I are here. Fr. Alexander Schmemann is quoted as saying that the Orthodox Church is the right church with all the wrong people. Orthodox Christians do quarrel, often quite heatedly. Here you will not find the measured civility that Episcopalians practice to hide irreconcilable differences. Neither, however, will you find disagreements which center on the Faith. That is a given and accepted as such.

Would I do it again? Yes, I can say without hesitation that I would, although I was not prepared for the intense grief I suffered at the parting. Anglicanism way dying, and a part of me was dying with it. I stoically denied the anger and hurt that tore at my soul, and that only made the pain worse. I prayed for months for protection "from vain thoughts and from evil memories" before God finally granted a healing. You too must be prepared to grieve but not as those without hope. Orthodoxy has given me, and will give to you, new life and fresh opportunities to bring others to Christ and His Church. Four years later, I remember the sorrow, but I do not feel it.

Do I have any regrets? Chiefly, that we did not make the journey sooner while our children were young. Years of watching us embroiled in the battles of The Episcopal Church took a toll on their spiritual lives; I know it did on mine. Like a divorcing couple, we failed to consider how our actions affected our children. Secondly, I was looking forward to new freedom—time for myself and time for Bill and I as a couple when our children grew up and left for college. That's not possible now and may never be. I'm employed full time as the secretary to a middle school principal, a job which provides medical insurance for my family. When I'm not working, I'm usually involved in a church activity, singing in our choir or attending weekly Bible study. On Sundays I help pack up the church after Divine Liturgy so that Bill can set up the chapel at home for Matins and Vespers during the week. Time consuming? Certainly. Tiring? Yes, occasionally, but never as wearying as living with the heterodoxy and relativism of The Episcopal Church.

Would I do it again? Yes, I can say without hesitation that I would. Orthodoxy is transforming the second half of my life, making it possible for me—like blessed Elizabeth, my patron saint—to do my greatest work in old age. Everything I suffered or sacrificed on my journey to Orthodoxy has been a necessary step along the way, and I already have been repaid a hundredfold by the joy and new purpose in life I have found here. I thank God that my years of wandering in the wilderness are over; it's good to be home.