The Russian Orthodox Church recently warned the new head of the Church of England about the possibility of allowing female bishops, saying it could break the unity among the churches.
The Church of England, which oversees the world’s 80 million-member Anglican Communion, narrowly rejected allowing women bishops last November, while congregations in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada all allow female bishops.
But in a message to Justin Welby, the new archbishop of Canterbury, Metropolitan Hilarion, head of Synodal Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, said that allowing female bishops would lead to the elimination of the theoretical possibility of the Orthodox Church recognizing the hierarchy of the Anglican Church.
“We know that the Anglican Church is now going through a difficult time and various views, positions, and parties co-exist in it,” Hilarion said. “However, we really hope that the traditional understanding of Christian morals and the church system will prevail in this polemic.”
Anglicans hold to the “branch theory,” which claims the three main branches of Christianity are the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church has long rejected the theory, and in it’s message last weekend hinted it would further distance itself from the Anglican Church if female bishops were allowed.
In the November vote, a majority of the bishops and clergy of the Church of England—a third of whom are female—cast their ballots for the measure to allow women to be bishops, but it did not have enough votes from the church’s lay members to gain approval.
Most Anglican churches in developing countries oppose both women priests and bishops, and have created a parallel group to the Anglican Communion to protest its liberal leanings.