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Freedom, Compromise and the Diaspora Problem


The 2008 talk given by Metr Kallistos (Ware) in Detroit (USA) has once more highlighted the Diaspora problem. In his talk the well-known Metropolitan firmly stated that it is time for Orthodox ‘jurisdictions’ in the Diasporas of Western Europe, the Americas and Australasia to come together on a territorial, and not ethnic, basis.

None of this is new. In fact, this only repeats what many have been dreaming of and speaking about since the 1960s. A dream indeed. The refusal of Patriarch Bartholomew to allow Metr Kallistos himself, a bishop without a diocese, to speak at the May Conference of the Russian Orthodox Church in England demonstrates reality. It shows that this Metropolitan too is the captive and hostage of a system which does not seek jurisdictional co-operation.

Why does this situation exist? No-one disagrees with the territorial principle as such. Everyone agrees that the superposing of one ethnic diocese on top of another in the Diaspora is an uncanonical compromise, an accommodation acceptable only temporarily. But there is no solution to the problem either in countries like the USA and France, where there are standing committees of Orthodox bishops, supposedly the first step to the formation of Local Churches. Such committees are generally tools used by Constantinople in an attempt to take over other jurisdictions. Indeed, in France recently the Russian bishop was temporarily forced to leave the standing committee.

All this is part of the Eastern Papist ideology that has been evolved in Constantinople since 1917, but which has steadily accelerated since the late Patriarch Athenagoras in the 1960s. In recent years Constantinople has even tried to extend the concept of Diaspora, for example to Estonia, the Ukraine and Orthodox Armenians in Georgia. It claims papal-style supremacy in order to take over Orthodox churches. However, if standing committees of Orthodox bishops are not the first step in the path to Diaspora unity (when was a committee a solution to anything?), what is the path to Diaspora unification?

It is our belief, which we will detail below, that the only hope of achieving administrative unity in the Diaspora is through an end to compromises and the recovery of freedom. For it is freedom, both in the Mother-Churches and in the Diaspora itself, that has been lacking all along. And it is compromise, the lack of principles, that has been the cause of the problem all along. Let us explain this viewpoint.

Freedom from Political Compromise

A Local Church can only be established by a Mother-Church which has the canonical right to establish a Diaspora jurisdiction. This disqualifies the Patriarchates of Alexandria and Jerusalem and the Churches of Greece and Cyprus. Such a Local Church must also enjoy internal freedom from outside political interference, resulting in compromises. For instance, She should have the freedom to remain on the Orthodox (Julian) calendar and not be forced by political and secular interests into adopting the Roman Catholic (Gregorian) calendar.

It is not difficult to find examples of unfree Orthodox Churches. The Russian Church under the Soviet regime springs to mind. Indeed, a few years ago, all Orthodox Churches in Eastern Europe and Russia were controlled by atheistic Communist regimes, the Church of Greece was for a time governed by a Fascist junta and Constantinople was under Turkish/Vatican domination. Today, although the Patriarchate of Constantinople is still not free, at least the Churches of Greece and Eastern Europe, including Russia, are for the moment free. We have proof of this need for political freedom in order to found a Local Church. It is exactly what was lacking when the Russian Church, under Soviet political control, founded the OCA. The compromises this involved from the beginning have led to the present crisis in the OCA.

However, political freedom is not only about being free of external State control, it is also about being internally free of compromises. Here we cannot help thinking of the issue of politically-motivated ecumenism and everything it involves, from intercommunion to liturgical modernism, from abandonment of the sacrament of confession to dropping the Orthodox calendar. This issue has been very divisive in Bulgaria, Romania and especially Greece, resulting in the emergence of a host of tiny and sectarian old calendarist groups. As a result of ecumenical compromise, at least one Local Orthodox Church is subject to an agreement with the Vatican. This means that its clergy are not allowed to receive Roman Catholics into the Church. Similarly, in England, some Local Churches are or have been subject to Anglican compromise, in which they must do their utmost not to receive Anglicans so as not to offend Canterbury.

For instance, we can well recall how in the 1980s the Paris jurisdiction (Patriarchate of Constantinople) directed Roman Catholic priests who wished to join the Orthodox Church and become priests, to the airport. This was so that they could be received and ordained in the USA by the OCA. Similarly, the refusal by Metropolitan Antony Bloom of the Sourozh Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate and also of the Greek Archbishop in London to receive Anglicans in the 1990s led to a group of 250 of them setting up yet another new jurisdiction. This was under the small Patriarchate of Antioch. To its credit, it at least was not afraid of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The essential problem here, as formulated by a Jesuit-educated, senior priest of the Paris jurisdiction in the 1970s, is whether Local Churches should be set up in the Diaspora at all or whether the present structures should simply wait to join some theoretical future form of Roman Catholicism, slightly less papist than at present. The latter theory of ‘structures d’attente’ was his solution, the former is ours. We believe that not only should Orthodox, when mature and free, set up Local Churches in the Diaspora, but that these Churches will be all the more necessary as Roman Catholicism and its structures collapse. These Local Churches and their infrastructures need to be prepared so that sincere Roman Catholics, left adrift, can find a spiritual home.

Freedom from Spiritual Compromise

If freedom from politically-motivated compromises is essential, then freedom from spiritual compromise is even more essential. Politically-motivated compromises in ecumenism have led individual into spiritual compromises. What we have said above means that here can be no Local Churches in the Diaspora, if certain ‘Orthodox’ clergy are not just adopting the Roman Catholic calendar, but are also involved in ecumenism with Roman Catholicism and Protestantism to the point of renouncing Orthodox teaching. The real Orthodox Church (but not all ‘Orthodox’ clergy and intellectuals) has two problems with Roman Catholicism.

The first problem is that it claims papal supremacy. This is a hangover from the fifth-century collapse of the pagan Roman Empire under barbarian pressure, when the Roman Emperor was replaced by the Roman Pope. Thus, under barbarian pressure, the Pontifex Maximus became the Sovereign Pontiff, the Pope became the Emperor. Papocaesarism began. As a result the Orthodox title of ‘Vicar of St Peter’ was dropped by the Popes of Rome and replaced with the title ‘the Vicar of Christ’. This was and is a barbarian imposition.

The second problem is the ideology used to support this claim to supremacy, which originally arose through the historical event of barbarian invasion. After a first rejection and a long gestation, this claim came to be ideologically expressed through the filioque clause, which was inserted into the Christian Creed in Rome in 1014. This affirmed that the Holy Spirit, the source of spiritual authority, proceeds not only from God the Father, but also from God the Son, from Christ, in Latin ‘filioque’. It asserts that since the Pope is the replacement for Christ (papal supremacy - soon to be formulated in the title ‘the Vicar of Christ’), therefore all spiritual authority, the Holy Spirit, proceeds from the Pope. Thus, all spiritual authority comes from him and from the clergy obedient to him. This allowed the papacy to develop a clerical army, on which celibacy was later imposed to make it even more effective, to which it could delegate any of its absolute authority. It is clear that the ultimate logical outcome of this ideology is the doctrine of papal infallibility and also clericalism.

As regards the Protestant world (this includes Anglicanism), contrary to popular mythology, it did not reject either papal supremacy or the filioque. It simply democratised them. It democratised papal supremacy to all believers, ensuring that all are ‘saved’. And since Protestantism democratised the first, it also democratised the second. Thus, all Protestant believers are popes and all are infallible, for spiritual authority, the Holy Spirit, proceeds from them all. As major Western countries spread their power around the world through massacre, conquest and colonisation, so they spread the myth of Western infallibility – ethnocentric arrogance, Westernisation and white supremacy.

All Westerners became vicars of Christ, representatives of God on earth, for all had the Holy Spirit proceeding from them. I well remember one Ugandan telling me his views of the colonial British who, lording it over Ugandans, patronisingly ordered him about with the words, ‘If I were you, I would…’. In other words they, in their imperialist arrogance, always considered that they knew best. The ultimate result of all this is today’s ‘new world order’, in which the Protestant American Empire, successor to the Protestant British Empire, imposes itself on the rest of the world, from Latin America to the Philippines, from Japan to Somalia, from Afghanistan to Iraq, from the Ukraine to Georgia. No-one should have sought this global power, because it means that the language of Antichrist will be American English.

The Freedom to Stand Alone

After political and spiritual freedom, the next criterion for a new Local Church to come into being is that She should be able to stand alone, that She should have the freedom and maturity to be independent. Just as infants do not learn to run before they can walk, so a potentially new Local Church must be able to stand independently. Such a Church should not show signs of dependency. One of the first signs of this freedom is the widespread and natural (not imposed from above) use of a new liturgical language. A Church which uses as Her main liturgical language that of another country, for example Slavonic or Greek, is not a new Local Church. She is a Church of immigrants, simply an extension of the Mother-Church on another territory, even is she also uses ungrammatical or illiterate forms of a native language from time to time.

To have the freedom to stand alone also means having an independent monastic life, with at least one fairly large monastery and one fairly large convent. Such monastic establishments should be able to supply the Local Church with a depth of spiritual life which parishes cannot provide. Such a monastery should be a source of bishops. It should also be able to provide a seminary, later with access to universities where, if necessary, doctorates in Church history and academic theology can be taken. Perhaps elders and eldresses might also appear in them to help guide the life of the Church.

Similarly, in order to be a Local Church, there should be a supply of canonical Church architects to design and build new churches and a number of canonical iconographers to fresco them and paint icons. There should also be suppliers to print books and magazines, to make Church vestments and utensils. In other words a Local Church should have Her own independent resources, finance and spiritually mature infrastructure, so that She can stand free of outside support, showing that She can not only walk alone but also run alone.

The Freedom to Choose

If Mother-Churches require both political and spiritual freedom to establish new Local Churches in the Diaspora and the Diaspora needs freedom to be independent, the support of infrastructure, it also needs internal freedom. Thus, there can never be any new Local Church if its members do not desire it, if it is not their free choice. Sadly, some Orthodox bishops appear not to know this. This is because they do not know the people. Committees of bishops, bureaucrats and academics are not the solution to any problem, if they do not start from the grassroots. Hence the failure of the ecumenical movement, which was not based on popular consultation in parishes and dioceses, but on committees of politically-motivated bureaucrats and humanist intellectuals. Little wonder that at the height of the ecumenical obsession in the 1970s there were cases both in Greece and Russia where ecumenist bishops were booed at by the faithful.

In other words, any decision to form a Local Church in the Diaspora must be voluntary, the result of a free choice. Whenever this has not been the case, it has resulted in failure and even spiritual catastrophe. Thus, the ‘Orthodox Church in America’, or OCA, a group founded by intellectuals with political support from Leningrad, now faces break-up. Its Romanian section is returning to the Mother Church with some 25% of the OCA. There are unconfirmed rumours that other national elements within the OCA also wish to return to now free Mother-Churches. Certainly, there are many immigrant groups in the Diaspora who will fight with all their strength to keep their ties with Mother-Churches in their homelands. They do not want to belong to new Local Churches and are insulted by what some see as newly-appeared upstarts and denationalised children of immigrants who tell them that they must cut their ties with their homes and ancestors.

Another example is the Paris Jurisdiction, a far smaller but parallel group. This is similarly facing crisis, split down the middle in a bitter conflict. This conflict is about whether it should remain a disincarnate entity within the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Turkey, or return to its Russian Mother-Church. It is the Russian Tradition which it claims to follow, but which most of those in control openly ignore and even deride, insulting the sensitivities of the faithful. The fact is that if the faithful do not want to form a Local Church, no top-down intellectuals or condescending fraternities with their manipulative ideologies can form Her. Local Churches are formed by the free choice of the grassroots people and clergy, the ones who constantly go to Church services and pray - not the ones who constantly go to conferences and talk.


When will Local Churches appear in the Diaspora?

1)When their Mother-Churches are politically free.

2)When their Mother-Churches are spiritually free of all ecumenical attachments and compromises.

3)When Diaspora Orthodox are able to stand alone, independently and freely able to provide for their own liturgical and spiritual needs in a mature way.

4)When large numbers of Orthodox in the Diaspora spiritually need Local Churches and voluntarily, of their own free choice, desire their establishment.

And when will these freedoms exist? Only when we are able to recognise the uncompromised Gospel Truth, for it is only the Truth that will make us free (Jn. 8, 32). Truth alone will make us free from human impositions, the fantasies of power-seeking intellectuals, artificial constructs and the compromises of pride and prejudice, which are used only to justify human weaknesses.

Fr Andrew

The Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God
15/28 August 2008

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