An American-based friend recently sent me a message, asking about efforts on the part of Orthodox churches in Britain to reach out to Forward in Faith. I very rudely failed to reply in a timely fashion so have decided to make a blog post out of it in the hope that this will go some way towards appeasing the wrath of my acquaintance. I just hope that I don't offend too many people by responding publicly.
The answer is that I know of very little that has been organised on any sort of large scale. There is the quiet evangelism among individuals, for which Orthodoxy is known, but there's nothing such as the OCA's outreach to ACNA. While Metropolitan Jonah's address to their conference was outstanding and inspiring, and no doubt ideal for that context, it was tailored for a situation that is so far removed from the reality of church life in Britain as to be largely an irrelevance to us.
The impression I have got over the years, both as an Anglo-Catholic and now as Orthodox who hears the views of Anglo-Catholics about Orthodoxy, is that English (the factors facing those in Scotland and elsewhere may be different) and North American Anglo-Catholics simply do not understand each other. They may belong to the same genus but they are different species, and I suspect that much of it is historical. I am led to understand that the variety of Anglo-Catholicism known as Anglo-papalism is essentially non-existent in the USA, while among English members of FiF, it is by no means uncommon and may even be the position of the majority. The provinces of York and Canterbury were once under Rome in a way that other Anglican provinces never have been. Anglicans in England have a direct historical link to the patriarchate of Rome that those elsewhere do not, and I suppose Anglo-Catholics in England could find in this some sort of basis for a different ecclesiology from that of their American counterparts, seeing themselves simply as separated parts of the Church of Rome. The impression I get of American Anglo-Catholicism is that it sees itself as Anglican first, and seeks to establish/fortify within its Anglican context the ancient Catholic faith. From that position, the ecumenical dialogue with Orthodox churches and even the talk of possible corporate reunion is not beyond the realm of possibility.
This difference is borne out in worship. American Anglo-Catholics have traditionally used the Anglican Book of Common Prayer in one form or another, or have used one of a number of specially-tailored missals which have usually been based on the BCP but have been enhanced in some way. The result has always looked distinctively Anglican. To them, the concept of an Anglican church using the Roman Missal is simply incomprehensible. Not only can they not visualise it happening in reality, they cannot imagine why any Anglican would wish to do such a thing. Yet, in England, in many Anglo-Catholic parishes, that is precisely what happens day by day, week by week. Many of those that use Common Worship then use its various textual and rubrical options and loopholes, (and there are many), to make the end result resemble the Roman Missal as closely as possible. It doesn't stop at textual variations either. Many English Anglo-Catholic parishes also follow the liturgical trends adopted by their Roman Catholic counterparts, even if they aren't actually required by the Roman Rite, such as the laying aside of the chalice veil, the delegation of the priest's 'Let us proclaim the mystery of faith' to the deacon, and so forth. Chalice veils are often viewed as a middle-of-the-road affair by modern Anglo-Catholics here. North Americans generally do what they see best in their situation and would be less likely to turn to current Roman practice for a rule against which to measure their own.
This came to light when the talk first appeared of Anglican ordinariates under Rome, and the speculation began over what this would look like liturgically. The Anglican Use in the USA was approved some years ago, but, as we have seen, the Anglican liturgical tradition in the USA is quite different from here. In the British Isles, Anglican doctrine and therefore liturgics have often been, at least in part, a reaction against its neighbours. So the Scottish Book of Common Prayer was less Protestant than the English one in the doctrine that it expressed, as a reaction against Presbyterianism. It contained an epiklesis, among other things, and when Anglo-Catholicism appeared in the 19th century, those in Scotland would have looked at their prayer book and seen something with which they could work. (Incidentally, the Scottish Episcopal Church is still generally considered to be liturgically higher than the CofE, as is the Church in Wales, as a response to the "Chapel"). Of course, it was the Scottish Prayer Book tradition that was taken to the USA, and formed the basis of Anglican liturgical practice there. So, when those American Anglo-Catholics approached Rome and said, 'Right. We want you to receive us but we've got this Anglican liturgical heritage that we don't want to lose', Rome was able to examine their rites and see that, yes, there was something distinctive about it that they could take with them.
By contrast, the English Prayer Book was in many ways a reaction against Catholicism, and bore more marks of Protestantism than its Scottish equivalent. When Anglo-Catholicism came along, many found themselves quite unable to work within the constraints of such a book, and such books as the English Missal were published, which enabled the mass to be offered in what was essentially the Roman Rite of the time, only in English. That never really went away, and the result is that, if most Anglo-Catholics of the FiF variety were to now ask Rome to examine their rites so they could take their Anglican liturgical heritage with them, what Rome would see would be something that looks almost exactly like the Roman Rite, if not actually the Roman Missal itself. They would quite rightly ask, 'Where is this Anglican liturgical heritage that you want to bring with you?'
Now there are of course many exceptions to this, but in a large part, members of FiF with whom I have been in contact, both in my Anglican and my Orthodox days, have been Anglo-papalists. Rome is mother and Orthodoxy is some strange and foreign thing, which may be venerable for what it is but is in schism nonetheless. The sort of address that Metropolitan Jonah gave to ACNA and the standing ovation and cheers that punctuated it at various intervals would simply not happen here. Many simply have no time for Orthodoxy.
All of this means that the Orthodox response to FiF here in England at least will of necessity be very different from that in America. There are some members of FiF who are not Anglo-papalists but simply traditional Anglicans, who grew up with their Prayer Book and wish to continue their Christian lives in a context where they do not have to defend themselves against certain trends in the CofE or the eagerness of those around them to swim the Tiber. Many of them are somewhere in the Continuum, while others remain in the CofE. I suppose that it is to them that this effort is tailored. A couple of us who were initially involved with this left after a while, and what we had in common was that it was that we simply weren't part of the target group. I had been a liberal Anglo-Catholic and at the time had welcomed the revisions in the Anglican Communion, so I never felt driven out and in need of refuge elsewhere. My journey to Orthodoxy began because I took seriously my Anglican friends who disagreed and began to explore ecclesiology. In time, I saw their position as being just as untenable as my own and I came to Orthodoxy because I came to believe that it alone is the Church of Christ.
So my excitement about an Orthodox Western Rite was born not out of clinging to a Prayer Book but rather out of my love for the Orthodox history and heritage of Britain: its liturgies, its prayers, its music, its customs, its holy places - the Saints who would have known those prayers, who would have sung that music. I did not understand the existence within Orthodoxy of an Anglican-based rite, with Anglican chant, and Anglican hymns inserted into it. I still don't. Had I wanted that I would have remained Anglican, although it must be said that these rites reflect Anglican practice of years ago and would not be recognisable to many Anglican people today who might otherwise benefit from a Western Rite in Orthodoxy. That is not to say that these things no longer exist in Anglicanism but they are found in pockets rather than being the usual stuff of Anglican worship in England. The first time I ever heard Merbecke was when I was asked to lead the singing of it at these Orthodox services, and I had to learn it for the purpose. Anglican chant is something heard in cathedrals but not most parishes. As for the Prayer Book, services from that are something Anglican prayer Book enthusiasts have to go looking for because it is so uncommon, especially as a main Sunday service. Some places might use it for the quiet 8 o' clock service but even they are getting fewer and fewer.
I am sure that there must be other Anglicans who, like me a few years ago, cannot relate to incessant lamentation over the loss of the Church of England "as it used to be" because the Church of England as it is now is all that they have ever known, who find Prayer Book services alien to their daily experience of Anglicanism, and yet who might be open to be moulded by Orthodoxy if it weren't presented as something that is sniping at what has formed them into what they are today. And what of non-Anglican Christians who are nonetheless the inheritors of the western liturgical tradition in some form and who may wish to explore Orthodoxy: Sacramental Methodists, Roman Catholics, even Independent Catholics? What benefit are Anglican-style services to them? We may find the modern rites in use in these churches and in the CofE problematic but to pretend away the past 40+ years when they have been in use is to severely narrow our missionary efforts. The fact is that to many, possibly most, Anglicans in Britain today, Prayer Book services with Anglican chant, Merbecke, and the scent of teak oil in the air would take just as much adjustment as ancient western services with plainchant. Therefore, while I don't doubt for a moment that the Western Rite may well be more accessible to such people than the Byzantine Rite because the general structure of the Liturgy will be more familiar, and plainsong is commonly used in a number of Anglo-Catholic parishes, and this is part of their pre-schism heritage, if faced with a choice between ancient Orthodox rites with plainsong, and Prayer Book-based rites with Anglican chant and Merbecke, I see no good reason not to go with the former, but then it isn't my decision to make.
I don't mean to disparage the outreach that is happening here. After all, who am I? People are being brought into the bosom of the Church through it and this is always a cause for rejoicing, but I suppose I just have my own private reservations and concern for the relative isolation of some of those who are brought into the Church in this way. I still support them in prayer and would assist them if asked. I just suppose part of me is saddened that there is this splendid opportunity to reach out and it seems tailored only to a specific few: those who are old enough to remember, and wish to continue in something approximating the Anglican worship of 30/40 years ago.
So there's my answer to your question, my friend. There's enough there to certainly make it worth more than a Facebook reply.