For some time, Orthodox Christianity has had something of a 'guru' status. It is respected and, for example, when Rome is violently attacked for its negative attitude towards other Christians, nobody seems to think there is any point in attacking Orthodoxy for being even more negative. (I have in mind the fact that the permissions given in the RC Ecumenical Directory for nonRCs to receive the Sacraments from RC clergy are far kindlier than the Orthodox rules). I suppose this is because we Westerners have been at each other's throats for centuries while the Orthodox were below the horizon; moreover, we Anglicans have used Orthodoxy polemically ("the Orthodox prove that you can be Catholic without being under the Pope"), which has created a sort of subconscious feeling among us that they are "on our side". But Orthodoxy has been high-profile in our country for quite a time now, and I think the time has come for us to be able to treat them with the same Christian frankness that we use in dealing with all our other ecumenical partners.
Another element in the 'guru' status enjoyed by Orthodoxy is the idea, widespread among impressionable Western laity, that Orthodoxy is so much more 'ancient' than our Western Christian cultures. More than half a century ago, Gregory Dix used to make himself unpopular by pointing out that this is quite simply not so. He emphasised that "the scientific study of liturgy inclines more and more to show that the old Roman Sacramentaries have preserved into modern use an incomparably larger body of genuinely primitive - and by this I mean not merely pre-Nicene but second and even first century - Christian liturgical material ... than any other extant liturgical documents ... ".
Let me take one detail: the question of the Eucharistic Epiklesis. Byzantine scholasticism - every bit as pigheaded as some Western scholasticism - has in effect treated this as essential. When 'Western Rite Orthodox' have been allowed, almost invariably the Roman Canon has been perverted by having a Byzantine-style epiklesis corruptly thrust into it. Since the Easterners were prepared to live in unity with a West which used this Prayer for a fair bit of a millennium, you might think that their own sense of respect for their own historic praxis might prevent them from such a crude and nasty violation. But not so. Any sign of the 'latinisation' of 'uniate' rites or culture is, justifiably, deployed as evidence that the West does not respect the integrity of the Christian East. But they treat with Byzantine hubris the ancient and exquisite liturgical and spiritual masterpiece of the West.
Two or three years ago, the theological periodical of the Moskow Patriarchate published an article arguing that the Roman Canon, as handed down, is indeed unexceptionable. A very good sign. We can do with more evidence that Orthodox are capable of respecting Western Catholicism.
But, at the Walsingham Conference, when the Orthodox representative at 'Questiontime' was asked what Orthodoxy could learn from the West, he dismissed the question with a comment that "Ecumenism is not a matter of exchanging parcels".
Indeed it isn't. It's about taking other Christians seriously.