On ‘The Orthodox Church’ by Timothy Ware

Early editions of this book were excellent at meeting the intellectual needs of its target audience – the Non-Orthodox world, especially of 1960s and 1970s Anglicans. Criticisms launched at it, that it was scholastic, academic, old-fashioned and not aimed at ordinary people, are therefore quite unfair. It was never meant for us, for it was written by an Anglican scholar from Oxford. Similarly invalid are criticisms that it does not cater for Orthodox and that it looks at the Church from the outside – it was after all written from outside in, not inside out. Later editions, expressing the viewpoints of the US-run Patriarchate of Constantinople in the 80s and 90s of the last century, cannot be expected either to reflect the mystical understanding of those on the inside of Church life, that is, of those in the arena. They express rather the spirit of ‘middle of the road’ compromise between this world and the Church.

Today the book urgently needs reformatting, a rewriting away from Anglican scholasticism and the worldly concerns which the Patriarchate of Constantinople was bogged down in during the end of the last century. This is necessary in order to take account of the dramatic changes in the Russian Orthodox Church, 75% of the whole Church, since 2000. These changes have moreover had an irresistible effect on the other 25% of the Church, however reluctant secular-minded liberals are to accept the reality of today’s Orthodox Church. It is time for them to abandon the secularist modernism of the last half of the last century, in which they appear to be stuck and nostalgically look back to. They need to look forward to the dramatic spiritual developments and welcome restorations which the 21st century is already bringing us.