Fr. Florovsky on Intercommunion

Andrew Blane

The issue on which Bulgakov and Florovsky diverged most widely at the Fellowship [of St. Alban and St. Sergius] meetings was introduced by Father Bulgakov in 1933. Noting with regret that the members of the Fellowship had for six years shared in each other’s liturgy and eucharistic celebrations, but had refrained from partaking of communion together because of the differing views and practices of their Churches, he made the rather daring proposal “that the Fellowship should take what he called ‘molecular action,’ and proceed with a plan of intercommunion for its own members, without waiting for the two Churches as a whole to act officially.” Bulgakov then offered such a plan. In order to safeguard the principle of Church order his plan called for “a special sacramental blessing to be bestowed upon the Anglicans by an Orthodox hierarch, and the Anglicans should submit to it and accept it as an ‘act of sacrifice’.” This dramatic proposal was discussed for some two years, with discord at times so acute that it threatened to destroy the new Fellowship. It was not simply a matter of Anglicans versus Orthodox, but rather that each side experienced deep fissures. The rift among the Russian participants has been concisely described by Roger Lloyd, the Anglican historian:

“Bulgakov knew from the beginning that he would find opposition from his own side, but he had not realized how strong this opposition would be. Florovsky, for example, spoke for many Russians when he said that the sacramental blessing could not absolve schismatics from the duty and obligation of submitting to the sacrament of penance before admission to the Church, for this essential rite for the reception of schismatics “in their existing orders”. It seemed to him that under the proposals inter-communion was to be had too cheaply by the Anglicans…’ (Georges Florovsky: Russian Intellectual, Orthodox Churchman, ed. by A. Blane, p. 65)

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