And speaking of Russian Orthodox: News of Father Tony Bartel…

The Anglican Bishop of Wangaratta has issued the following missive:

22 September 2007

To the People of the Parish of Rutherglen and Chiltern in the Diocese of Wangaratta

Dear People of Rutherglen and Chiltern Parish,

It is with sadness that I write to you today to let you know that your Rector, Fr Tony Bartel, has offered me his resignation.

Fr Tony, in offering me his resignation, has made it clear that he is very happy in the parish and that the resignation is from the Anglican Church.

Fr Tony has found that the changes made in the Diocese and the wider Anglican Communion make it impossible for him to remain an Anglican.

The ordination of women is a catalyst issue but is only one among a number of theological and ecclesiological issues for him.

Fr Tony and his family will celebrate their last Sunday in the parish on 2 December 2007.

It is Fr Tony’s intention to be received into the Russian Orthodox Church.

For my part, I will miss Fr Tony’s intellectual sharpness and his contribution to the wider Diocese. For that, and the joy of his family’s presence in the Diocese for these few years, I give thanks.

To you all in the parish, I emphasise that this decision is not to do with the parish but entirely to do with Fr Tony’s response to issues in the wider Anglican Church.

I leave it to him to explain this further to you at an appropriate time.

Fr Tony assures me that his love for, and commitment to, the people and Parish of Rutherglen and Chiltern remains undiminished by his decision.

May God bless you all in your Christian lives and ministry.

+ David

You will remember that I posted only a little over a week ago the news of the death of Fr Tony’s mother, so this is obviously a time of deep upheaval for the family, and I ask you to keep them all in their prayers.

Tony is living proof of Newman’s dictate: “To grow is to change and to grow perfect is to change often.” Tony went to school with me at Immanuel College in South Australia, then was at Luther Seminary and Adelaide University at the same time as I was until he graduated from his Bachelor of Theology and went to the States. There he was ordained a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia and met and married his wife, Beth. He returned to Australia some years later to be received into the Anglican Church and ordained first a deacon (I was there for that) and then a priest by Bishop David Silk for the Diocese of Ballarat. He did several years as a lecturer at an Anglo-Catholic Seminary in the highlands of Papua New Guinea before returning to ministry in Australia at Mt Barker in the Adelaide Hills. For the past few years, he has been a priest of the diocese of Wangarratta in the lovely wine district of Rutherglen.

Now he takes one more step along the road to perfection. Tony acknowledges in a personal note that he is “unlikely to ever again have paid employment as a priest” so he will be seeking secular employment. However, I take it from that statement that he does intend to seek ordination as a Russian Orthodox priest.

There is of course one more “change” that lies ahead for Tony to take in his journey to ecclesiastical “perfection”, but we pray that he and his wife and family may enjoy a long period of settled and faithful membership in the Russian Orthodox Church before he finally decides to take that step which he has been putting off for almost a life time now…

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9 Responses to And speaking of Russian Orthodox: News of Father Tony Bartel…

  1. Tony Bartel says:

    Dear David,

    Thank you for your kind thoughts.

    Just to clarify, I am uncertain if I will ever seek ordination in the Orthodox Church. I have not closed off the possibility, but it is not likely to happen in the short to immediate term.

    I am sure that we will have many years to disagree about ecclesiastical perfection. In the meantime, I like the following description of the Orthodox Church by the French convert, Father Lev Gillet:

    “O strange Orthodox Church, so poor and weak, with neither the organization nor the culture of the West, staying afloat as if by a miracle in the face of so many trials, tribulations and struggles; a Church of contrasts, both so traditional and so free, so archaic and so alive, so ritualist and so personally involved, a Church where the priceless pearl of the Gospel is assiduously preserved, sometimes under a layer of dust; a Church which in shadows and silence maintains above all the eternal values of purity, poverty, asceticism, humility and forgiveness; a Church which has often not known how to act, but which can sing of the joy of Pascha like no other.”

  2. Dixie says:

    Chronia Polla, Tony and family!

  3. Schütz says:

    Actually, I am overjoyed that via converts such as yourself, Tony, and Fr John D’Alton (Antiochian from Church of Christ) I am finally making some personal connections with the Orthodox Churches of the East.

    I really do pray that God will grant us both those “many years” of which you speak, Tony!

  4. William Tighe says:

    Has Wangaratta started to “ordain” women? I know that Ballarat, The Murray and Wangaratta were once stalwartly resisting the innovation (and I have met the Bishop of The Murray, and am sure that he is still manfully resisting it!), and I have been given to understand that the relatively new bishop of Ballarat (a former Catholic Franciscan friar) is quite “weak” on the issue, but I was unaware of a change in Wangaratta. Has bishop Farrer been replaced by a “trimmer?”

    Oh, David (if I may), please give my regards to Fr. Serge, whom I have not seen in some years, but whom I know.

  5. Tony Bartel says:

    Bishop David Farrer of Wangaratta has licensed female priests for the last two and a half years. However, these priests have been under the episcopal care of the neighbouring Bishop of Bendigo.

    The Wangaratta diocesan Synod has recently passed legislation that will allow the diocesan bishop to ordain women. At the same time they repealed legislation that would have allowed for alternative episcopal care for those who in conscience cannot accept the ordination of women. Bishop Farrer has indicated that he will assent to both of these moves.

    Bishop Farrer has indicated that he will not ordain women himself or concelebrate with them. However, he is willing to live with the anomaly of having women priests within his college of priests.

    Throughout his epsicopate in Wangaratta, Bishop Farrer has steadfastly refused to say what he believes about the ordination of women. In a discussion last week he indicated to me that he is unable to offer teaching in this area because he is uncertain what that teaching should be.

  6. William Tighe says:

    I see. There is a prominent English FIF priest who once characterized Mrs. Farrer to me as “an orthodox Mrs. Proudie” who helped to keep her husband on the straight-and-narrow. It seems her influence is, alas, waning.

  7. eulogos says:

    Dear Mr. Tighe…your (un)favorite subject is really not the main point here,is it? It is sort of backward looking as all involved here agree on the issue.

    Forward looking, there is Herr Schutz’s statement that there is, of course, one more change that lies ahead for Tony to take in his journey to ecclesiastical perfection.

    Tony took this in good part, which is very good of him. I confess to being somewhat irritated at times when Orthodox folks say this to me. I said to one that I had already made a great conversion in my life when I became a Catholic. I was trying to convey something I wasn’t quite saying, the degree of turmoil involved in that change, the feeling of being lost and churchless when I postponed it, the way I, even in my silly youth, threw myself on God begging for His truth, before I made the decision, the feeling of commitment involved in the profession of faith I made. (a layperson’s version of the Tridentine profession of faith.)
    So the blithe comment that I should keep converting until I got it right didn’t really sit well with me.

    My guess is that Tony most likely is that convinced about Orthodoxy.

    I am very attracted by Orthodoxy, by the liturgy, and by the fact that they often have small churches which are real communities like Protestant churches. But I can’t think myself into a position where I would think that Orthodoxy is The Church and Benedict XVI is outside of it. Can’t do it.

    But, honestly, sometimes I envy people who can.

    Many years, Tony!

    Susan Peterson

  8. Schütz says:

    Dear Dr William,

    I gave your message to Fr Serge. He returns the greetings! He was, as you would expect, the life of the conference. Unfortunately, he is suffering greatly from arthritis, but it does not seem to affect his cheerful curmudgeonly temperament.

  9. Schütz says:

    Dear Susan,

    I made my (friendly and tongue-in-cheek) comments about Tony’s journey on the basis of his previous record. Some of us can only ever fit one conversion into our lives. Tony, at last count, has made three formal “conversions”. I wouldn’t wish another upon him, although I would wish that his choice were other time on the third go!

    Oh well, God put Tony here to do his will, not mine!

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