Branch theory

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The branch theory is a theological hypothesis within Anglicanism, holding that the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion are the three principal branches of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Some Anglican theologians also include the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Church of the East, the Old Catholic Church, and the Lutheran Church of Sweden.[1]

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defines the branch theory as:

…the theory that, though the Church may have fallen into schism within itself and its several provinces or groups of provinces be out of communion with each other, each may yet be a branch of the one Church of Christ, provided that it continues to hold the faith of the original undivided Church and to maintain the Apostolic Succession of its bishops. Such, it is contended by many Anglican theologians, is the condition of the Church at the present time, there being now three main branches…[2]

Analogous branch theories[edit]

As well as this theory, referred to as the branch theory, other ecclesiological ideas have been called variants of it or have also been called branch theories.

Two lungs and sister churches[edit]

What has been called another version of the branch theory was discussed by some Roman Catholic theologians, such as Robert F. Taft and Michael Fahey, in the era of the Vatican II Council,[3][4][5][6] held that the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church are 'Sister Churches' or 'two lungs' of the Body.[7][8][6] Both the churches in question reject these ideas. The Eastern Orthodox Church rejects the opinion as being incompatible with the Orthodox faith, due to its belief that the "two lung" branch theory presents "a territorialist concept" and that "the Church is not composed of parts of a body, two lungs, but of a single body".[9][10][6] The Catholic Church denies outright that the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church are "sister Churches", and applies the term "sister Churches" only to the relations between the particular Churches, such as the sees of Constantinople and Rome.[11] The metaphor of "Christianity" or "Christendom" (not "the Church") breathing with "two lungs" was first used by the Russian poet and philosopher Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov, drawing inspiration from the worldview of Russian intellectual Vladimir Solovyov.[12][13] Pope John Paul II applied the metaphor to "the Church", which for him was not some amalgam of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church, but the Catholic Church itself, thus indicating that it must avail itself of the traditions of both Eastern Christianity and Latin Christianity.[14][15]

Invisible church[edit]

Some Protestant traditions, such as the Methodist Church, advocate a version of branch theory ecclesiology that holds that "Christianity is represented by three branches: Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant."[16]

Views[edit]

Anglican[edit]

William Palmer (1803–1885), an Oxford theologian, was the principal originator of the Branch Theory. His two-volume Treatise on the Church of Christ (1838) formulated the notion. The theory was then popularized during the Oxford Movement, particularly through the work of the Tractarians. Although the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission, an organization sponsored by the Anglican Consultative Council and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, seeks to make ecumenical progress between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, it has made no statement on the topic, and no support for the branch theory has been expressed anywhere outside Anglicanism itself. The branch theory "has received mixed reception even within the Anglican Communion."[17]

Roman Catholic[edit]

Soon after the formulation of the branch theory, the Catholic Church rejected the idea that "the three Christian communions, Roman Catholic, Greek schismatic, and Anglican, however separated and divided from one another, nevertheless with equal right claim for themselves the name Catholic" and "together now constitute the Catholic Church".[18] The Catholic Church does not accept that those separated by schism or heresy are part of the one church, maintaining that "there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him".[19] It considers Anglican orders invalid in general and holds that, though individual Anglicans may have orthodox faith, the Anglican churches have not maintained the fulness of ancient Christian teachings, most notably on the sacraments.[20] It insists that "the Church of Christ, despite the divisions which exist among Christians, continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church".[19]

It does not see acceptance of the branch theory or similar ideas as a requisite for ecumenical relations with other Christians, as witnessed in the wide-ranging activity of its Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.[21]

Eastern Orthodox[edit]

Non-acceptance of the branch theory by the Eastern Orthodox Church,[22] was in 1853 called unfortunate by the theory's founder, William Palmer:, who wished the Eastern Church to claim to be no more than a part of the whole, not the whole of the true Church.[23] Bishop Kallistos Ware says that "Orthodox writers sometimes speak as if they accepted the 'Branch Theory', once popular among High Church Anglicans";[24] but Western Orthodox cleric Julius Joseph Overbeck writes:

But what do we see in the Anglican Church? Heresies are not only tolerated and publicly preached from the pulpits, and the schismatical and heretical Church of Rome is by a great many fondled and looked up to, but a theory has sprung up, the so called Branch-Church theory, maintaining that the Catholic Church consists of three branches: the Roman, Greek, and Anglican Churches. Only fancy! the Roman and Greek Churches contradicting and anathematising each other, and the Anglican Church (in its Articles) contradicting both, and besides full of heretical teaching-these are the component parts of the One Catholic Church, the abode of the Spirit of Truth!!! And on this theory rests the "Corporate Reunion of Christendom," which entirely ignores all Apostolic teaching concerning schism and heresy![25]

In its official declarations, the Eastern Orthodox Church states that the one true church founded by Jesus Christ is a real identifiable entity and that it is singularly the Eastern Orthodox Church. It has identified itself as the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church" in, for instance, synods held in 1836 and 1838 and in its correspondence with Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII.[26] Adrian Fortescue wrote of the Eastern Orthodox: "The idea of a church made up of mutually excommunicate bodies that teach different articles of faith and yet altogether form one Church is as inconceivable to them as it is to us (Catholics)".[27] The Eastern Orthodox Church does not consider Catholics or Protestants to be branches of the "One True Church."[28]

The Eastern Orthodox Church is a part of several ecumenical efforts on international, national, and regional levels, such as the World Council of Churches.[29] With respect to branch theory, some conservative Eastern Orthodox, however, take a decidedly anti-ecumenical terms. An example is a statement by the 1983 Holy Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia:

Those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ's Church is divided into so-called "branches" which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all "branches" or sects or denominations, and even religions will be united into one body; and who do not distinguish the priesthood and mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics, but say that the baptism and eucharist of heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore, to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or who advocate, disseminate, or defend their new heresy of Ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, Anathema![30]

Oriental Orthodoxy[edit]

It is generally recognized that the Chalcedonian Schism resulted from a difference in semantics rather than actual doctrine, since both non-Chalcedonian and Chalcedonian Christianity share a similar Christology despite choosing to express it in different (Cyrillian vs. Chalcedonian) terms,[31] and theological dialogue has resulted in formal statements of agreement on that issue, which have been officially accepted by churches on both sides.[32][33] The Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE Society (Society for Orthodox Christian Unity and Faith), which is headquartered in Cochin and affiliated with the Indian Orthodox Church declares its firm belief that, although "the two groups are not in communion with each other",[34] "both the Byzantine (Eastern) Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches are the true heirs to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, which was the Church of the apostles and the holy fathers. We also believe these Churches teach the true faith and morals of the Church established by Christ for which the ancient martyrs gave their lives."[35]

Protestant[edit]

The Methodist Church holds to a variation of the branch theory ecclesiology, "advocating that Christianity is represented by three branches: Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant."[16]

Other Protestant Christians generally reject the Anglican version of the branch theory as originally formulated and hold a theory in which the Christian Church "has no visible unity" but contains numerous denominations that are "invisibly connected."[36] Fortescue states that "that this theory is common among all Protestant bodies, although each one generally holds that it is the purest branch."[36]

In expounding upon branch theory, theologian Paul Evdokimov states that some view each distinct Christian tradition as contributing something special to the whole of Christendom: "Each church, in its more pronounced form, displays, according to its own native spirit, a particular version of the unique revelation. So, for example, Roman Christianity is characterized by filial love and obedience expressed towards the fatherly authority hypostatized in the first Person of the Trinity: the Church is there to teach and to obey. For the Reformed Churches the vital thing is sacramental reverence for the Word; it is the Church's duty to listen and reform itself. The Orthodox treasure the liberty of the children of God that flowers in liturgical communion, while the Church hymns the love of God for the human race."[37]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ See The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Dogmatic Theology, by Claude Beaufort Moss, SPCK, 1943, p. 279, available online at http://orthodoxanglican.net/downloads/faith.pdf
  2. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3, article "branch theory of the Church"
  3. ^ Orthodox Life, Volumes 57-58 (in English). Holy Trinity Monastery. 2006. "Orthodox-Roman Catholic dialogue and of the ideas of "Sister Churches" or of the Churches as "two lungs" of the Body as contemporary expressions of the despised "branch theory" of ecclesiology." 
  4. ^ Michael Fahey, S.J. (1996). Orthodox and Catholic Sister Churches: East Is West and West Is East (in English). Marquette University Press. ISBN 0-87462-576-9. 
  5. ^ Andrii Krawchuk, Thomas Bremer (2014). Eastern Orthodox Encounters of Identity and Otherness: Values, Self-Reflection, Dialogue (in English). Palgrave Macmillan. p. 7. "Vatican II (1962-1965) was a key turning point that marked the beginning of Catholic ecumenism, paved the way for the current dialogue, and hammered out seminal ideas ("sister Churches" and "two lungs") about the nature and shape of that relationship within a new framework of mutuality. While the road to Catholic-Orthodox understanding has not always been smooth and numerous challenges still remain, the author argues that further ecumenical progress stands to gain from a new understanding of each church as diverse and multifaceted in its own right." 
  6. ^ a b c Bria, Ion (1991). The Sense of Ecumenical Tradition: The Ecumenical Vision and Witness of the Orthodox (in English). WCC Publications, World Council of Churches. ISBN 9782825409664. Retrieved 28 March 2014. "Emphasis on the spirit of catholicity or universality as communion in the Spirit questions the validity of the Roman Catholic theory of "the two lungs"." 
  7. ^ Orthodox Life, Volumes 57-58 (in English). Holy Trinity Monastery. 2006. "Orthodox-Roman Catholic dialogue and of the ideas of "Sister Churches" or of the Churches as "two lungs" of the Body as contemporary expressions of the despised "branch theory" of ecclesiology." 
  8. ^ Andrii Krawchuk, Thomas Bremer (2014). Eastern Orthodox Encounters of Identity and Otherness: Values, Self-Reflection, Dialogue (in English). Palgrave Macmillan. p. 7. "Vatican II (1962-1965) was a key turning point that marked the beginning of Catholic ecumenism, paved the way for the current dialogue, and hammered out seminal ideas ("sister Churches" and "two lungs") about the nature and shape of that relationship within a new framework of mutuality. While the road to Catholic-Orthodox understanding has not always been smooth and numerous challenges still remain, the author argues that further ecumenical progress stands to gain from a new understanding of each church as diverse and multifaceted in its own right." 
  9. ^ Phillips, Andrew. "Restoring the Spiritual Unity of Europe" (in English). Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia: Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland. Retrieved 28 March 2014. "For this reason the present Pope John Paul II has spoken rather of the 'two-lung theory', an idea which has much appeal to a Pope from Eastern Europe who lives in Western Europe. He seems to have used this expression for the first time in his Apostolic Letter Euntes in mundum in 1988 on the millennium of the Baptism of Ancient Russia: 'Europe has two lungs, it will never breathe easily until it uses both of them'. This metaphor has since often been used by his speechwriters, such as the French philosopher Olivier Clement, who frequents both Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. However attractive the idea of uniting East and West, Orthodoxy and Catholicism, just as two lungs are united in one body, this theory is unacceptable to the vast majority of Orthodox and also to more than a few Roman Catholics. Firstly, it is unacceptable because it presents the Church as having two parts, a Western part, Catholicism, and an Eastern part, Orthodoxy. It presents therefore a territorialist concept, that Orthodoxy is only for Easterners, and that Catholicism is only for Westerners. Church unity is all a mere matter of geography and culture. This is obviously not the case, since there are Easterners who at present find a spiritual home in Catholicism, and Westerners who find a spiritual home in Orthodoxy. Secondly, the metaphor is untrue because the Church is not composed of parts of a body, two lungs, but of a single body, in fact, the Church is the Body of Christ, as the Apostle Paul called it in the first century. If the Church were two lungs, what would the heart or the stomach or the legs or the brain or any other organs or members represent? Either the Church is Roman Catholicism or else it is Orthodoxy." 
  10. ^ Marczewska-Rytko, Maria (2003). Religion in a Changing Europe (in English). Maria Curie-Skłodowska University Press. ISBN 8322720890. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  11. ^ Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Note on the expression 'Sister Churches'", 30 June 2000
  12. ^ Alfeyev, Hilarion (25 September 2005). Can Europe Breathe with One Lung? Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue Today (in English). Retrieved 28 March 2014. "Christianity must breathe with two lungs, Eastern and Western. This metaphor, which belongs to the Russian poet Vyacheslav Ivanov and derives from the worldview of Vladimir Soloviev, is very popular in Catholic circles. It was used by the late pope John Paul II in his public addresses. Today Ivanov's metaphor is often used with regard to Europe and European Christianity, as well as within the context of the dialogue between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches." 
  13. ^ B.C., "Orthodox Christians and Catholics, One lung or two"
  14. ^ Kovacs, Nick. ""Breathing with Two Lungs Again"" (in English). Retrieved 29 March 2014. "Using Pope John Paul II's analogy, the left lung represents the Latin Rite, and the right lung represents the Eastern Churches. (Note to Viewers: The Eastern Churches include all of the Eastern Rites in union with Rome, and the separated Orthodox Churches.)" 
  15. ^ Dragani, Anthony (14 September 2001). ""Breathing with Both Lungs"" (in English). Eternal Word Television Network. Retrieved 28 March 2014. "In the context of Ut Unum Sint, it becomes clear that the Holy Father is claiming that the Catholic Church has been dominated primarily by the Latin tradition. He believes that a balance must be restored, in which both the Latin and Eastern traditions will contribute to the health of the Church." 
  16. ^ a b Abraham, William J.; Kirby, James E. (2009-09-24). The Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies (in English). Oxford University Press. p. 420. ISBN 9780191607431. Retrieved 28 March 2014. "Whereas the Russian Methodist Church typically holds some variation of the 'branch theory' ecclesiology, advocating that Christianity is represented by three branches: Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant, Russian Orthodox theologians of all kinds staunchly reject the branch theory and insist that the Orthodox Church represents the Church of Christ on earth the entire fullness of the church that Christ established. These questions are important because they lay the ground for understanding in what way the United Methodist Church belongs to the church that Christ established on earth from the Orthodox point of view." 
  17. ^ Cunningham, Lawrence (2009-02-16). An Introduction to Catholicism (in English). Cambridge University Press. p. 8. ISBN 9780521846073. Retrieved 28 March 2014. "This "branch" theory (i.e. one Catholic Church with three branches of Anglican, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic) has received mixed reception even within the Anglican Communion." 
  18. ^ Letter of 16 September 1864 from the Holy Office to the Bishops of England (Denzinger, 1685 (old numbering)
  19. ^ a b Dominus Iesus, 17
  20. ^ Apostolicae Curae of 1896
  21. ^ Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  22. ^ Michael Plekon (editor), Tradition Alive: On the Church and the Christian Life in Our Time (Rowman & Littlefield 2003 ISBN 0-7425-3162-7), pp. 230, 237
  23. ^ Dissertations on Subjects Relating to the Orthodox or Eastern-Catholic Communion quoted in Anthony Dragani, Adrian Fortescue and the Eastern Christian Churches, p. 81
  24. ^ Diokleia), Kallistos (Bishop of Diokleia) (29 April 1993). The Orthodox Church (in English). Penguin Adult. p. 246. ISBN 9780140146561. "Orthodox writers sometimes speak as if they accepted the 'Branch Theory', once popular among High Church Anglicans." 
  25. ^ Overbeck, J Joseph (1881). A plain view of the claims of the Orthodox Catholic Church as opposed to all other Christian denominations (in English). p. 112. Retrieved 28 March 2014. "But what do we see in the Anglican Church? Heresies are not only tolerated and publicly preached from the pulpits, and the schismatical and heretical Church of Rome is by a great many fondled and looked up to, but a theory has sprung up, the so called Branch-Church theory, maintaining that the Catholic Church consists of three branches: the Roman, Greek, and Anglican Churches. Only fancy! the Roman and Greek Churches contradicting and anathematising each other, and the Anglican Church (in its Articles) contradicting both, and besides full of heretical teaching-these are the component parts of the One Catholic Church, the abode of the Spirit of Truth!!! And on this theory rests the "Corporate Reunion of Christendom," which entirely ignores all Apostolic teaching concerning schism and heresy!" 
  26. ^ Erwin Fahlbusch, William Bromiley (editors), The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Eerdmans 2003) vol.3, p. 867
  27. ^ Adrian Fortescue, The Orthodox Eastern Church, p. 366
  28. ^ Gabel, Paul (2005). And God Created Lenin: Marxism Vs Religion in Russia, 1917-1929 (in English). Prometheus. p. 35. ISBN 9781615926701. "The Eastern Orthodox Church (Russian, Greek, Serbian, etc.) considered itself the One True Church. The Catholic Church to the west was a heresy, and Protestants were a heresy of a heresy." 
  29. ^ Kinnamon, Michael; Cope, Brian E. (31 December 1996). The Ecumenical Movement: An Anthology of Key Texts and Voices (in English). WCC Publications. p. 484. ISBN 9780802842633. Retrieved 28 March 2014. "WCC was instrumental in promoting ecumenical consciousness at various international, regional and national levels, in countries of many Orthodox Churches. It was in this spirit during meetings of the WCC that Eastern Orthodox Churches and Oriental Churches have entered into an informal theological dialogue." 
  30. ^ The ROCOR's Anathema Against Ecumenism (1983) (Orthodox Christian Information Center)
  31. ^ "Today, it is recognized that the issues that divide Oriental Orthodox from Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox over Christology are largely verbal" (William J. Collinge, Historical Dictionary of Catholicism (Scarecrow Press 2012 ISBN 978-0-81087979-9), p. 322).
  32. ^ Michael Prokurat, Michael D. Peterson, Alexander Golitzin, The A to Z of the Orthodox Church (Scarecrow Press 2010 ISBN 978-1-46166403-1), p. 245
  33. ^ "Second Agreed Statement and Recommendations to the Churches" (Chambésy, Geneva, Switzerland, 28 September 1990`)
  34. ^ WCC, "Orthodox churches (Oriental)"
  35. ^ The OCP Society, "The OCP Mission"
  36. ^ a b Dragani, Anthony (2007). Adrian Fortescue and the Eastern Christian Churches (in English). Gorgias Press LLC. p. 80. ISBN 9781593333454. "According to this theory, as Fortescue explains it, Christ's Church has no visible unity but is instead portioned into numerous denominations that are somehow invisibly connected. He asserts that this theory is common among all Protestant bodies, although each one generally holds that it is the purest branch. Fortescue considers the Anglican version unique, however, for it divides the Church into only three branches: the Eastern branch (Eastern Orthodoxy), the continental Westen branch (Roman Catholicism), and the British branch (Anglicanism)." 
  37. ^ Evdokimov, Paul (2011). Orthodoxy (in English). New City Press. p. 342. ISBN 9781565483699. Retrieved 28 March 2014. "This is the opposite of the famous 'branch theory', according to which each ecclesiastical tradition possesses only part of the truth, so that the true Church will come into being only when they all join together; such a belief encourages the 'churches' to continue as they are, confirming in their fragmented state, and the final result is Christianity without the Church. Each church, in its more pronounced form, displays, according to its own native spirit, a particular version of the unique revelation. So, for example, Roman Christianity is characterized by filial love and obedience expressed towards the fatherly authority hypostatized in the first Person of the Trinity: the Church is there to teach and to obey. For the Reformed Churches the vital thing is sacramental reverence for the Word; it is the Church's duty to listen and reform itself. The Orthodox treasure the liberty of the children of God that flowers in liturgical communion, while the Church hymns the love of God for the human race." 

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