NOW THE TRUTH CAN BE TOLD: MYTHS AND MISUNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT ROCOR
Now therefore, we can concentrate on our essential mission, without the inessential temptations and distractions of the past, which threatened to take us along the thorny and winding path of the temptations of isolationism and even sectarianism. Now, we in ROCOR have an added force, strength is behind us. The ship of ROCOR sails on, a fresh, new wind from the East billows in our sails. It is the wind sent to us by the Orthodox grassroots bishops, clergy and people of Russia, by the Holy Russia so beloved of our ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus. And not to be in communion with them would be a grave mistake.
From the Talk ‘Voznesensky Prospekt’, given in Erie, Pennsylvania earlier this year
Over the last three months I have had little time to reply to those who have tried to censor this website and restrict the factual Truth about the Church that is told here. It is time that I did reply, but be warned. As the late Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) used to say: ‘The Church hurts’.
Christ was crucified on the Cross by the powers of this world, the Romans and the Jews. Then He was tormented from both sides by thieves, though one of the thieves who first tormented Him later repented and was promised Paradise. Thus, our Lord foretold to us that as He was hated by the world, so too we should be.
Similarly, in the last century the Russian Orthodox Church was raised on the Cross by the powers of this world, the contemporary Romans and Jews, and then tormented from both sides by spiritual thieves. On the one side, there were anti-Orthodox renovationist liberals, whose ‘faith’ was in their heads and not in their hearts, together with their supporters outside the Russian Church. On the other side, there were other spiritual thieves, sectarian pharisees, chauvinists and ritualists, who only understood the externals of Church life.
The persecution of the Russian Church took place not only inside Russia, but also outside Russia. Thus, thirty-six years ago, when I first managed to make contact with the Russian Church in this country, I found it divided into two. On the one hand, there was a still large but rapidly dwindling group. This was increasingly being taken over by right-wing emissaries from New York, whose mentality was strongly sectarian and cultish. Unfortunately, this was joined by some argumentative and ritualistic Anglo-Catholic fanatics, as well as the second-generation children of immigrants, who brought their own sectarian mentality, which was in love with externals, into that part of the Russian Church with them.
On the other hand, there was another group, much less racist and rapidly growing. This was increasingly being taken over by equally cultish intellectuals, equally from an Anglican background. They wanted to invent an ‘Anglican Orthodoxy’, which had nothing in common with historic Orthodoxy, but which they justified by claiming that it was ‘English’. It was not. It was simply aggressive liberalism, the modernist and elitist ideology of an Establishment which is nostalgic for that awful period when arrogant and racist British imperialism ruled the world. In order to achieve their takeover, these modernist renovationists persecuted out of the Church any who loved authentic Orthodoxy.
Faced with the appalling situation, there were some who had already crossed to other Local Churches, like Metropolitan Kallistos Ware or the late Archimandrites Sophrony (Sakharov) and Barnabas (Burton). Others had given up on Orthodoxy altogether. The most stubborn, like myself, emigrated. There also, too sincere by half, I was to fall out of the frying pan into the fire, before I was to discover the Truth about what had been going on all those decades.
Naturally therefore, the recently-won and Divinely-inspired Unity of the Russian Church brought with it, both before and after it had happened, aggressive attacks from both sides. These came from the ‘liberals’, that is ‘Orthodox’ who had rejected Orthodoxy, and therefore rejected unity. Naturally, they left the Russian Church for divisive sub-groups on the sidelines and margins. On the other hand there were those who did not want unity, because they preferred life in a darkened, long-bearded ghetto, life in a pharisaical sect and fanatical cult, which took pleasure from condemning other human-beings, including their own Non-Orthodox families.
Both sides provided and still provide generous amounts of disinformation. The myths and misunderstandings that have resulted from this disinformation about Church Unity can perhaps be summarised in five sections, as given below.
Myth 1: ‘ROCOR has submitted to the Moscow Patriarchate’
The above Cold War paranoia was put about mainly by CIA operatives, especially from among the retired generation, and their neophyte adherents. This McCarthyite hysteria says that ‘ROCOR parishes have been taken over by the KGB’, ‘our bishops will be sent to Siberia and liquidated’, ‘Putin is trying to take over the world’ etc etc.
First of all, those who said such things did not understand what the Moscow Patriarchate is. They believed that it is some Stalinist organisation. It is not and never was, although Stalin, who has been dead for fifty-five years, was successful in bullying and manipulating some individuals inside it. In reality, the Moscow Patriarchate is the historic part of the Russian Church inside the Russian lands, its first twentieth-century Patriarch being St Tikhon.
In acts of self-justification for their schisms, they disqualified the Moscow Patriarchate by stating the obvious, that there are and have been (and always will be) a few rotten eggs in it, both inside and perhaps especially outside Russia. This is tantamount to the disciples refusing to go to the day of Pentecost because one of the disciples was Judas. You will always find a few traitors in any organisation. This is called reality.
To say that ROCOR submitted to the Moscow Patriarchate is as absurd as saying (as the liberals have done) that the Moscow Patriarchate submitted to ROCOR. In love there is no submission. Both sides yielded to the Truth, that is, to the holiness of the New Martyrs and Confessors. And this marked a shift back to the centre by a number of senior clergy inside the Moscow Patriarchate – back to where the people, faithful parish clergy and monastics, have always been. As for ROCOR, it meant that the extremists who had infiltrated her from the 1960s on, mainly old calendarist Greeks and their ill-integrated and fanatical neophytes, and tried to seize power in the Synod in New York, left her to found their own self-justifying Protestant-style sects – which is what they actually wanted all along.
Myth No 2: ‘ROCOR is Old Calendarism’
A second attack has come from old calendarist quarters. True, one individual in ROCOR did agree to act uncanonically in the 1950s and consecrate an old calendarist bishop. However, this consecration was quite rightly rejected by Metropolitan Anastasius and the Synod as uncanonical. St John of Shanghai was also clear on this question: ‘Archbishop John refused to intefere in the affairs of other Local Churches…When Greek old calendarists came to him with the request for recognition by ROCOR, he told them with love that he could not intercede for them before the Synod of Bishops’ (p. 213 in ‘The Holy Bishop John of Shanghai and San Francisco’, compiled by Archpriest Peter Perekrestov, Moscow 2008).
It is true that some politically-minded individuals in New York (but not in the real spiritual centre of ROCOR, in Jordanville) persisted in the idea of helping the old calendarists to reconcile themselves with their Mother-Churches in Greece and later in Romania and Bulgaria. It is now clear that this was naïve, for those who wish to have their own churches, like Protestants, will not in any circumstances reconcile themselves with their Mother-Churches.
This became evident when the Mother-Churches offered old calendarist groups the opportunity to return to canonicity, allowing them to keep the Orthodox calendar for the fixed feats. Not only did the sectarians refuse to do this, but they actually justified their continued schism. Their acts of disobedience and self-justification, making out that the Universal Church, except for the few thousand members of their own much-divided sects, has fallen into apostasy is so patently untrue that it requires no further time.
Their actions also reject the pastoral economy of St John of Shanghai who in the 1950s allowed Western converts to celebrate the Church’s fixed feasts on the new calendar, until they had matured enough in the Orthodox Faith to progress to the Orthodox calendar. (Indeed, he even allowed some of them a ‘Western’ rite. We should recall that this was the 1950s and early 60s, when the concept of a ‘Western’ rite was still widespread).
Myth No 3: ROCOR and New Calendarism
Another attack came continually from new calendarists. For decades, in England, France and the United States especially, they slandered ROCOR as ‘uncanonical’, using all their media to spread this lie and they still have not repented. Indeed, less than two years ago, one senior new calendarist actually went to Moscow to lobby against the coming unity between the Moscow Patriarchate and ROCOR. He was quite rightly told where to get off and to stop interfering in the internal affairs of the Russian Church. He returned to retirement and ignominy in North America.
This persecution was particularly serious. Beginning as early as the 1920s in Paris and then spreading to North America, it meant rejecting and depriving themselves of the grace given by the Tradition of the Church and, in particular, by the canonisation in 1981 of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. The new calendarist choice to conform in all ways to the Establishments of whichever country they lived in was pure secularism.
Their compromises took the forms of branch theory ecumenism and new calendarist modernism. They meant the rejection of real Orthodoxy and its watering down into little more than a set of mere cultural customs. Thus, in the USA we saw the clear development of Eastern-rite Protestantism, in England Eastern-rite Anglicanism and in France Eastern-rite Catholicism (Uniatism).
Myth No 4: ‘ROCOR is Anti-Missionary’
This Schmemannite myth is often relayed by OCA propagandists, who play the nationalist (phyletist), Russophobic card. In fact it is they who are all-American nationalists. An extraordinary selection of lies is used by them. For example, they now resort to the nonsense that ‘ROCOR has preserved the Tradition, but the OCA has preserved the missionary impulse of St Tikhon’. Do they really not understand that the Tradition and the missionary impulse both come from the Holy Spirit? Who are these ‘pneumatoclasts’, these strugglers against the Holy Spirit? Protestant Pentecostals? po they not know that it was ROCOR that glorified St Tikhon, who founded ROCOR, and that they condemned that glorification, rejecting the saints?
These phyletists have not yet realised that ‘Russian Orthodox’ does not mean ‘Russian’ by nationality or language. Perhaps they should discover how the Russian Church and her saints carried out her missions from St Stephen of Perm in eastern Russia on, into Siberia (St John of Tobolsk, St Sophronius of Irkutsk), the Altai (St Macarius), Alaska (St Herman), North America (St Tikhon) and Japan (St Nicholas), or that matter how ROCOR conducts missions, for example in Western Europe and Indonesia. Just as ‘Roman Catholic’ does not mean necessarily that you are Roman, so ‘Russian Orthodox’ does not necessarily mean that you are Russian. When will these people wake up to reality?
Representatives of over 50 nationalities are Russian Orthodox and the last Patriarch (with his surname von Rüdiger) was born in Estonia, which language he spoke, and where he attended churches which had two choirs, Estonian and Russian, which sang from each choir in each language alternately. The Russian Orthodox Church is not racist like some in France, England and the USA, we are just Orthodox who follow the Tradition. If you put Orthodoxy first, then everything else, local language and local customs, will all fall correctly into place. To do anything else is, as my farm labourer brother would say, is called putting the cart in front of the horse.
Myth No 5: ROCOR and the Diaspora Here is some common sense on the present situation of the Diaspora from a sensible person, Metropolitan Jonah, the new head of the Orthodox Church in America, a spiritual child of one of Russia’s foremost spiritual fathers:
‘The idea of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is based on primacy over an empire-wide synod, or ecumenical council. Indeed, canonically, the primacy of both Rome and Constantinople had one foundation: they were the imperial capitals. While this was feasible in the days of the Roman Empire, and later during the Ottoman Millet, it has long since become unrealistic. For the Empire effectively ceased to exist eight hundred years ago, and now only the Greek ethnic churches, and a few others, recognise the Ecumenical Patriarchate to be what it claims to be.
While no one denies it a primacy of honour, it has no real institutional role, much less a role of actual leadership. This is partially due to its location in a hostile Islamic society; and partially due to the lack of co-operation and consensus as to its role among the other Orthodox Churches. Primacy of honour without primacy of jurisdiction is meaningless…the Ecumenical Patriarchate is primarily a Greek ethnic institution, unabashedly promoting Hellenism…
The Patriarchate of Constantinople is universally accepted as having a primacy of honour; but given its current situation, it is unable to lead. Furthermore, it promotes a cultural agenda of Hellenism that mutes its voice to the other churches. Its claim of jurisdiction over the so-called ‘barbarian lands’, or ‘diaspora’ falls on the deaf ears of other Patriarchates that have established identical institutions in the same territories, disregarding its claims to jurisdiction outside the geographical boundaries of existing churches. Beyond this, having been the first to abrogate the unity of the Church in America, Constantinople's own political adventurism has divided the Church in Estonia and threatens the unity of the Church in Ukraine and other places, and hence, its communion with Moscow and other autocephalous churches. By these actions it has broken trust in itself, and sacrificed its ability to lead’.
Archimandrite, now Metropolitan. Jonah, from his lecture ‘Episcopacy, Primacy, and the Mother Churches: A Monastic Perspective’.
The above, or very similar, could have been written, and indeed was, by any conscious member of ROCOR at any time over the last eighty years.
When the Church is persecuted and meanly slandered, as ROCOR has been for generations and in some quarters still is, there is a choice. Stand with the persecuted Church or stand with the persecutors. In other words, suffer or else swim with the tide. Since the 1920s, this is what people did in the Diaspora, some valiantly and honourably withstanding everything, others falling into temptation and taking the easy way out. The choice was clear.
A new wind is now sweeping away the ageing and the compromised who have for so long stood against spiritual progress, slandering us and persecuting us, and they are dying out. This is why they are now so aggressive towards the renewed and reunited Russian Church. They would much rather have preferred the Cold War to continue. In this country it is now understood that they number about 300 and continue to be much divided. In the USA a new leader of the Orthodox Church in America can gradually renew spiritual life there and return the errant members of his dwindling 100,000-strong group to Orthodoxy, building on those faithful who suffered inside it for over a generation, never leaving it, especially those faithful in Alaska and Canada. As one of them, an OCA priest of the older generation, recently put it:
‘As far as the cancer that infects the OCA, we all know too well that it goes back 30 years to when the … elite micro-managed the election of … which was going to propel us forward - and for a time it did. But the … elite were going to transform Orthodoxy by forcing the hand of God…There are so many more who have played a part in this pyramid scheme. It has finally come crashing down to earth.
The OCA elite hated monasticism, loathed St Tikhon’s…The elite was an ill-fated disease forced on the rest of the Church. The OCA, the GOA and the AO Archdiocese are all stricken with the same neo-gnostic fatal illness. Is it any wonder why God has worked a miracle by bringing the ROCOR and MP together? The world and World Orthodoxy need this for the sake of the renewal and the salvation of Orthodoxy’.
In Paris the modernists continue their fantasies, but even there the tide is turning and they must realise that they are fighting a lost battle. New battles will come, because all conscious Orthodox Christians are soldiers in a spiritual war that never ceases. However, ROCOR has, though only just, come out victorious of this battle, not at all because everything it did was always right, but because there were always enough faithful clergy and people inside her to suffer and be patient, resisting the attempted takeover by sectarian pharisees, cultish fanatics and triumphalist ghetto-lovers.
Foremost among those who suffered their nonsense – and unto death – was the ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus, who rejoices in heaven together with the newly-reposed Patriarch Alexis. May their bright memories enlighten still benighted minds and chase away the darkness of those artificially contrived myths and misunderstandings about ROCOR, which have for so long been cultivated by the enemies of Church Truth.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips,
3/16 December 2008