EPISTLE OF THE HIERARCHICAL SYNOD OF THE RUSSIAN (ROSSIJSKOJ) ORTHODOX CHURCH TO THE HIERARCHICAL COUNCIL OF THE RUSSIAN (RUSSKOJ) ORTHODOX CHURCH ABROAD
21 August / September 3, 2000. No. 70.
Your Eminence, honourable Archpastors – members of the Hierarchical Council, and also clergy and children and of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad!
The Hierarchical Council of the Church Abroad opens at a time when, on the one hand, the whole world is being shaken by events, each more terrible than the one before – catastrophes, elemental disasters, wars… On the other hand, the whole world is seized by a certain fever for unification: this is observable not only in the political life of the world, but also in its religious life. On the one hand, endless disputes, on the other – a haste to unify everyone and everything: states with states, churches with churches, religions with religions…
The fever for unification that embraces the earthly globe manifests itself in various external forms – sometimes political, sometimes economic, and sometimes also in an ecclesiastical-ecumenical form – but its profound essence remains unchangingly the same…. And in this the zealots of unification place definite hopes on the hierarchs of the ROCA.
But can the Orthodox Church surrender to this spirit of the times – that Church which is unshakably “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2.20)?
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved”, says the holy Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 15.1-2). In another epistle, to the Galatians, he says: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel that what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1.8). But to those who have preserved the holy gospel there is the promise of being comforted… “by the mutual faith both of you and of me” (Romans 1.12).
If we open the Acts of the Holy Ecumenical Councils, we see that the holy builders of the Church struggled for nothing more than for the preservation and support in its unchanging form of the faith of the fathers. “We pray you that you keep the faith of the fathers unchanged”. “We beseech you to investigate the novelty that has been introduced against the former faith” – this is how the zealots of the Orthodox Faith addressed the Holy Councils. And, having investigated the novelty, and rejected the innovations, and confirmed the Dogmas of Orthodoxy unshaken, the Holy Fathers exclaimed: “Yes, this is the faith of the fathers! This is how we all believe!”
If we open the works of the Russian teachers of the faith that are closer to us, we see the same care first of all for keeping the patristic teaching unchanged. “Human teachings all strive for that which is new, they grow, they develop… Thus is has become a law: forward, forward! But in regard to our faith it was said from on high: stand… remain unmoved. All that remains for us to do is to be confirmed and to confirm others,” appealed the noted holy hierarch of the Vladimir lands Theophan, the Vishensky recluse. “… We have to look over all that has passed in order to see whether the order of teachings that was outlined for us has in any way been disturbed.” (“On Orthodoxy with warnings against sins against it,” Sermons of Bishop Theophan, Moscow, 1991. From his sermons to the flocks of Tambov and Vladimir).
In 1918 “he who restrains” was taken away – and this had fateful consequences not only for Russia, but also for the whole world. Already within two years of the murder of the holy Martyr Tsar Nicholas II, in 1920, the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate in the person of the Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne, Metropolitan Dorotheus of Prussa, issued an encyclical which encroached on the very foundations of Orthodoxy. Heretical communities that have been separated by the Orthodox Church from Her communion were declared to be “churches” having equal rights with her, and Orthodoxy was given the aim of the speediest possible unification with all the apostates.
In contrast to this treacherous document, which marked the beginning of the global apostasy of “World Orthodoxy”, in the same year of 1920 the holy Patriarch Tikhon together with the Holy Synod and the Higher Church Council – that is, undoubtedly with the whole fullness of the Central Ecclesiastical authorities of the Russian Church – made a most important resolution, Ukaz no. 362 of 7/20 November, 1920, on the self-definition of dioceses in conditions of possible persecution. The other name for this Ukaz – the Ukaz on decentralization – underlines the fact that the aim of the resolution of the Russian Ecclesiastical Authorities was contradictory to the aim of the encyclical of the Ecumenical throne, which called for the centralization of all confessions of faith.
From now on the broad path and all conditions for unification were created only for the unfaithful: but for those faithful to Christ a violent disunion lay in store: the two parts of the Russian Church were disunited: the one found itself exiled from its native land, while the other was driven into the catacombs by persecutions unprecedented in their ferocity. But in these terrible years the Church of Russia did not cease to constitute one spiritual whole.
The force enabling both parts of the Russian Church to hold out and preserve Their unity in all temptations, especially in the approaching most terrible period – the epoch of the sergianist schism – was their unanimous confession of the faith of the fathers.
“Schism is not antiquity, but novelty”, pointed out Theophan the Recluse. This remarkable definition has a universal character and allows always accurately to establish the one who is truly guilty of schism.
By his treacherous Declaration of 1927 Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) opened wide the gates of the Church for renovationism. It consisted in the undermining of the very meaning of the existence of the Church on earth – not as the pillar and ground of the truth and of eternal Authority, but as the weapon of earthly power.
Both parts of the Russian Church – the part in Russia, and the part Abroad – were completely unanimous in their attitude to the Declaration of 1927. The Hierarchical Synod of the Church Abroad, headed by his Beatitude Metropolitan Anthony, broke communion with the schismatic metropolitan and his synod. The bishops in the homeland that were faithful to the Russian Church did the same. The essence of the sergianist schism was very accurately expressed by New Martyr Bishop Victor (Ostrovidov), when he called Sergius an anti-ecclesiastical heretic. The faithful children of the Russian Church did not visit the sergianist churches, they justly made no distinction between sergianists and renovationists. “We shall not go to renovationism,” said the Orthodox. Communications were lost with Metropolitan Peter (Polyansky), the lawful head of the Russian Church, who was in prison, and the treachery of his Deputy forced the Church, both in the Homeland and abroad, to be ruled in its canonical existence by Ukaz no. 362 of the holy Patriarch Tikhon concerning the self-definition of dioceses. With the death of Metropolitan Peter (Polyansky), the Central or Supreme Authority of the Russian Church ceased even its nominal existence. Such an eventuality was foreseen by Ukaz no. 362, which contained detailed recommendations for the ordering of the Church which would avoid schism in this event. But through the efforts of Metropolitan Sergius, a dual authority was introduced, and then a false patriarchate (a common phenomenon, alas, in Church history during the periods when heresy was dominant).
From now on the Russian Church trod its path in the conditions of the absence of Central (Supreme) Ecclesiastical Authority. When the last Orthodox churches were closed in Russia in the 1930s, the Russian Church finally departed into the catacombs, preserving communion in prayer with Her half that was abroad and commemorating Her First Hierarchs Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasy and Philaret. Following the spirit and aim of the Ukaz no. 362 of the holy Patriarch Tikhon of 7/20 November, 1920 kept the Orthodox Church reliably free of false strivings for unification.
This was not the case with the sergianist church – it grew strongly into what is now commonly called “official world orthodoxy”. The latter was also ruled by a document of 1920, but the document of an opposite tendency – the ecumenical encyclical of the Locum Tenens of the Ecumenical Throne Dorotheus. “World Orthodoxy” became an inalienable part of the ecumenical movement and dragged the sergianist church after it into the abyss. Into the gates opened by Metropolitan Sergius there now poured without the slightest resistance the false teachings by which the enemy of human salvation has, in the course of the whole of his struggle with the Church, and especially in the 20th century, undermined the teaching of Christ.
The sergianist church accepted all the most destructive innovations of the 20th century – both communism, and ecumenism, by which it clearly marked its complete attachment to the most terrible schism that has ever tormented the Universal Church.
If Metropolitan Sergius, as the holy new martyrs pointed out, had “distorted the dogmatic face of the Church”, then under his successors we must speak no longer of distortion, but of a complete overthrow of the Holy Dogmas, and first of all – of the Dogma of the Church as being one and only one. In consequence of this trampling on the Holy Dogmas there appeared crying violations of the Holy Canons – for example, the categorical ban on joint prayers with the heterodox under threat of being deprived of one’s rank and expelled from the Church.
Is it necessary to cite examples of the excesses of the ecumenists, which are the more blasphemous in that they have been committed in the name of Christ? In 1983 those abroad had the opportunity of seeing on television the raising of a pagan idol by delegates of the Fourth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Vancouver, among whom were representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate, while in Russia the “Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate” in its account of this ecumenical Assembly was not ashamed to mention this hideous act in the most positive terms.
After the ecumenical Assembly in Vancouver the Russian Church Abroad, headed by the holy Hierarch Philaret, in its Council in Mansonville in 1983 delivered ecumenism to anathema.
With the fall of the “iron curtain”, there finally appeared the opportunity for the forcibly divided parts of the Russian Orthodox Church to unite. But it turned out that in the years that had passed since the death of the holy Hierarch Philaret (1985), too much had changed in the Church Abroad – and a significant part of Her was now under threat of falling under their own anathema.
The concelebrations of clergy and even bishops of the Church Abroad with the clergy and episcopate of the ecumenist Orthodox Churches – which was to have ceased after the Mansonville council of 1983 – again became a commonplace phenomenon. The concelebrations of the majority of the hierarchs of the Church Abroad, not to speak of the other clergy, with the clergy of the ecumenical Serbian patriarchate became a real scourge. And these concelebrations took place in spite of the fact that this patriarchate almost exceeded the Soviet sergianists in ecumenical enthusiasm, while her relationships with her local communists was just as submissive as was that of her Soviet “sister”. These concelebrations have not ceased even now, after the recent epistle of the Serbian patriarch to his Muscovite brother, in which he affirms that his patriarchate no longer has communion in prayer with the ROCA.
It was also with a heavy feeling of perplexity that we observed the hasty proclamation, in the Hierarchical Council of the ROCA that took place in 1994, that the ecclesiology of Metropolitan Cyprian of Fili and Orope was identical to the ecclesiology of the Church Abroad. We cannot accept as Orthodox the basic position of this ecclesiology – that the saving grace of the sacraments can supposedly be guaranteed to abide in heretical communities, albeit only up to their conciliar condemnation. One of the Greek metropolitans with his followers calls the hierarchs of “World Orthodoxy” the “sick” members of one and the same Body of Christ – His True Church. One branch is healthy, the other sick. We understand that the ecclesiological resolution of the Council of 1994 is a natural step further downwards after the Nativity Epistle of 1986, which was distributed under the signature of Metropolitan Vitaly, in which the meaning of the anathema against ecumenism accepted in 1983 was restricted, against all logic, to “members of our Church (that is, the Church Abroad)” – as if an anathema applies, not to a heretic, but to a jurisdiction! But we also saw, and we see to the present day, that there are enough people in the Church Abroad who understand the whole destructiveness of the resolutions, and that these people are trying to correct the mistake of the Hierarchical Council in 1994.
But of course that which we perceive with the greatest heaviness is the ever-increasing tendency of the Church Abroad towards union with the Moscow Patriarchate. It is worthy of note that the very possibility of negotiations with her was sanctioned in principle by the same Council of the ROCA in 1994 which recognized the crypto-ecumenist ecclesiology of Metropolitan Cyprian.
At a time when the Moscow Patriarchate was preoccupied with unity with the Catholics (the Balamand unia of 1993 – this document has not been disavowed: on the contrary, certain of its positions have been widely realized in life) and with the Monophysites (the Chambesy union of 1990; within the bounds of the programme outlined in it the Moscow Patriarchate is now getting very close to the Armenian monophysite church), certain hierarchs of the Church Abroad have been insistently seeking to get closer to the Moscow Patriarchate – even in spite of the fact that the patriarchate takes less and less account of the very existence of the Church Abroad, exappropriating her property now not only in Russia, but also abroad. This has delivered a huge blow to the dignity of the Church Abroad and Her hierarchy even in the eyes of “outsiders”. But still sadder is the fact that this witnesses to the apostasy of part of the hierarchs of the ROCA from the path bequeathed to Her by the first-hierarchs Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasy and Philaret – that is, to their apostasy from Orthodoxy.
If the other, healthy part of the ROCA does not find within itself the strength to halt the strivings of the apostates, then the final degeneration of the ROCA into a false ecclesiastical organization and Her subsequent dissolution in the ecumenical “great and spacious sea” (Psalm 103.27) of “World Orthodoxy” will become a burning question in the nearest future.
In Russia the stand-off between the Church Abroad and “World Orthodoxy” in the person of the MP has taken a particularly acute form, and therefore the Russian parishes of the ROCA did not have the possibility of waiting many years until the hierarchs abroad re-established Church discipline and were again established on the path of the holy Hierarch Philaret. This was the cause of the break in eucharistic communion between the Russian [Rossijskoj] Orthodox Church and the Hierarchical Synod of the ROCA which took place in 1995. Unfortunately, our actions at that time did not meet with understanding on the part of the clerical leadership of the ROCA, which, contrary to the spirit and the letter of Ukaz no. 362 and its own evident inability to restrain the tendencies towards apostasy from the faith in the dioceses abroad, began to insist on his own full right to realize supreme ecclesiastical authority in Russia.
The five years that have passed since then have shown whether or not we were right in our fears.
Our position remains: faithfulness to the dogmas and holy canons of the Orthodox Church and, moreover, the preservation of the Orthodox Faith without contamination from the ecumenical filth of “World Orthodoxy” and its organic part – the Moscow Patriarchate. It was on this path that Her ever-memorable first-hierarch, the holy Philaret, left the Russian Church Abroad for us, his successors, and this position of ours is similar to that of the majority of Old Calendarist Greek hierarchs and their flock. We have no “separate” claims in relation to the Moscow Patriarchate: it is no more than a part of the global and now already ecumenical sergianism, which with the same zeal that Metropolitan Sergius once served Stalin now serves the New World Order and the coming unification of everyone and everything. It is in no way worse or better than some Serbian or Constantinopolitan patriarchate. With all these ecumenical jurisdictions the Russian Orthodox Church broke canonical communion under the holy Hierarch Philaret.
If you, your Graces, honourable Archbishops, clergy and laymen, choose to return to the faith of the fathers – the holy fathers of Universal Orthodoxy and the fathers of our Church Abroad – then we shall be together again. Unity of canonical communion will be quickly restored between us, as soon as unity of faith is restored.
But if it is not – if within the Church Abroad there is not found the strength to stop Her slide into the quagmire of “World Orthodoxy”, then the end is inevitable: the Moscow Patriarchate will suck up into itself her remains scattered around the world, and the muddy waters of ecumenism will close above Her head forever.
May this not be!
The means of salvation are the same for all times: to hear and to carry out, amidst the wavering, unstable elements of the world, the everlasting voice of the true Mother Church uttered from on high: As you have believed – “in that stand and be saved” (I Corinthians 15.1).
+ Valentine, Archbishop of Suzdal and Vladimir,
President of the Hierarchical Synod of the Russian [Rossijskoj] Orthodox Church
+ Theodore, Bishop of Borisovskoye and Sanino
+ Seraphim, Bishop of Sukhumi and Abkhazia
+ Victor, Bishop of Daugavpilis and Latvia
+ Hilarion, Bishop of Sukhodolsk
+ Anthony, Bishop of Yaransk
Protopriest Andrew Osetrov, Secretary of the Hierarchical Synod