An online discussion on the term ‘church goer’ and what it means in Orthodoxy has erupted after an English Orthodox priest in Britain was labelled a ‘Church goer’.
A man from the North West, Alexander Hamilton, was recently ordained as a priest by a Bishop in the diocese of Leeds, according to the website of the Church of England.
Mr Hamilton was ordained in April last year and said he had been ‘overwhelmed’ by the reception he had received from his parishioners.
However, the BBC’s Newsnight programme has revealed that Mr Hamilton did not live in Leeds and was not a member of the church.
In the show, the priest is filmed explaining how he is a member and not merely a member, and how the word ‘church’ is used as a synonym for ‘religion’.
The bishop, who does not reveal his name, said the bishop had been surprised to hear of Mr Hamiltons ordination.’
It’s quite incredible that someone could say that,’ he said.’
He’s obviously an Orthodox priest and he’s been ordained by the Bishop of Leeds.’
But it’s an interesting phenomenon, and I’m sure the Bishop will be more open to hearing from him and will explain the reasons behind the word church.’
Mr Hamilton has not spoken to his congregation, which is a church-based congregation in the North of England, for almost two years.’
We have a long tradition of working with the bishop in terms of being open and transparent with people who might be in a different tradition of religion,’ he told the programme.’
I’m certainly a believer in all that.’
Mr Hammond said he was not affiliated with any other faith or denomination.’
The word church does not mean I’m an orthodox Catholic, nor is it an Anglican,’ he added.’
And that’s just how I identify myself.
I’m a Christian, a follower of Christ, and so I don’t identify myself as an orthodox Christian.”
You can’t just say I’m Catholic or Anglican’Mr Hamilons ordinations are only for the dioceses in which he has been ordained.
‘We are an English diocese,’ he explained.’
So it’s just that, as an English bishop, it’s quite possible to have one of those ordinations, but that’s a very limited, one-off opportunity.”
It does seem that people are more comfortable in being identified as Orthodox than people are identifying themselves as Anglicans,’ he continued.’
People feel more comfortable identifying as Orthodox, because there’s a wider recognition of what they’re supposed to be.’
You’ve got to recognise that the word Orthodox is a very, very narrow label.’
If I was Orthodox and I wanted to identify myself that way, that’s fine.”
But when it comes to a full church-wide ordination, it seems to me that it’s much more of a broad label.
It seems to imply that it isn’t really an Orthodox institution.’
For me, it does seem to be a very narrow, one or two-dimensional label that I’m not really comfortable with.”
The Anglican Church is an institution that has done a lot of work on its diversity and diversity within the Anglican Communion,’ he concluded.
‘So I think that I should be able to be open about that, and also be able go to a different congregation.’
A statement from the Church said the ‘broadening of the definition of Orthodox to include the wider diocesan community’ had been implemented by the bishops’ committee for bishops.’
In this way, it can be seen that we recognise and welcome differences of opinion and that we will always seek to bring people together,’ it said.