On the Vital Need for ROCOR and the Future
Our Church has not only now been proclaimed to be One, She really is One. It is even amazing how quickly and easily the barriers created over many years have fallen away. I am convinced that this has been possible precisely because we were and are bearers of one and the same Russian Orthodox Tradition, all the principal values which we bring to the world coincide.
Report of 24 June 2008 referring to unity with ROCOR, Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad (now Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and All the Russias)
Introduction: Our Existence
In recent years doubts have been expressed about the need for the continued existence of the New York-based Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) as one of the self-governing parts of the Russian Orthodox Church. For instance, some say: ‘In the past ROCOR had a reason to exist, but in today’s post-Soviet world, there is no reason for its continued existence, it is time to ‘integrate’’. ‘Why continue a separate existence when the Moscow-based part of the Russian Orthodox Church is now free and also has many dependent parishes outside Russia for new emigrants, sometimes even in the same geographical area as ROCOR’? Before we look at the answer to this question, we must leave aside two huge practical considerations.
Firstly, we leave aside the obvious fact that the continued existence of our Church as a self-governing part of the wider Russian Orthodox Church depends on the direction and leadership of our bishops, whom we obey, and not on ourselves. Secondly, we also leave aside the question as to whether the present situation is as it should be. For example, like others among us, former President Putin has expressed the thought that all Russian Orthodox outside the territory of the former Soviet Union should be part of ROCOR. We would say that even without these considerations, our continued existence as we are now is of great importance. Why?
Orthodoxy: Faithfulness to the Holy Spirit
At the same time, we remain concerned by the canonical divisions among those Orthodox believers in the Diaspora, whose Church life is linked to the spiritual traditions of Russian Orthodoxy, but who are not taking part in the unitive process between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.
On questions concerning the activities of the Church in the outside world, Patriarch Alexei II and the members of the Holy Synod, 2004.
ROCOR has always confessed unshakeable faithfulness to the Russian Orthodox Church and Tradition, which are inspired and informed by the Holy Spirit. This is why in the old days of atheist oppression we rejected all pressure to compromise through sergianism and ecumenism, and the New Martyrs and Confessors were glorified by ROCOR as early as 1981. Mocked and persecuted by those who had forgotten the Beatitudes and so who tried to isolate us, we went on in our suffering, ignoring the taunts around us. We spoke when the free voice of the rest of the Russian Church had been forced into silence. And today we continue unshaken in our confession of the same Faith and Tradition – nothing has changed for us.
If hangovers from the past like secular and modernist compromises and excesses in Church matters still exist outside the mainstream among a few recently-baptised or unChurched individuals in the Moscow-based part of the Church, they certainly do not exist among the vast majority there, who are as faithful as us to the New Martyrs and Confessors. Moreover, the self-governing status of ROCOR is a guarantee of our freedom from any possible compromises. Our people, including those many who have recently come to us from the lands of the former Soviet Union, know this. This frank confession of the Tradition is part of our Russian Orthodox identity and this is respected inside Russia.
The ROCOR rejection of modernism is why for us any adoption of the Catholic calendar, as some Balkan Churches and even others have been forced into doing, is unthinkable. This is why compromises with Orthodox practice, like intercommunion, allowing communion without confession on principle and not in exceptional circumstances, shortening the services, beardless and collared clergy, women with uncovered heads, leaving the iconostasis doors open during services, bringing newly-baptised baby girls into the altar and, in general, permitting any worn-out modernist practices, minor or major, are unthinkable. They are simply a falling away from the Tradition in favour of secularism.
All those actions would constitute a betrayal of the New Martyrs and Confessors, canonised by ROCOR almost exactly thirty years ago. UnChurched modernists try to justify themselves by claiming that there are two traditions in the Church, one ours, the other theirs. Of course, this is untrue - there is only One Tradition. The rest is simply decadent practice, an imitation of secularism, a swimming with the tide, as practised so enthusiastically by some. So modernists crudely and proudly disguise their decadence under the camouflage of an ‘alternative tradition’ or ‘a revival of early Christian practice’, claiming that we are ‘old-fashioned’ or simply ‘wrong’.
However, in reality their novelties – and that is what they are - are not part of the ever-new Tradition, they are simply recent innovations, changing fashions, made routine or ‘traditional’ by secular minds. Such modernists may cultivate the illusion that those in their parishes, a few converts from different races and backgrounds, but especially from Western countries, who, hoodwinked, know no better, may be happy with modernism, but they forget the thousands of Orthodox who boycott their churches. Instead of being blinded by pride, they should be wondering not about the one inside their churches, but about the ninety-nine outside them.
People: Faithfulness to the Son
I consider that, walking hand in hand with our brothers abroad, we can significantly strengthen our opportunities to witness to the outside world to the authentic and uncompromised Orthodox Tradition, which...is the main task of the activity of the Church in the outside world.
Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad (now Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and All the Russias), 24 June 2008.
Once we have established our faithfulness to the Orthodox Tradition through the Holy Spirit, we can carry out our mission of Churching the People, of bringing the People into the Body of Christ. In Russia and in the lands of the former Soviet Union, that is, in Eurasia, this task of incarnating the Church in this manner is under way. It is also under way in other places where the Moscow-based part of the Church can operate far better than ROCOR, though much in the same way. That part of the Russian Church is able through its infrastructure and diplomatic links not only to build churches inside the old Soviet Union, but also for example in Eastern Europe, Japan, China, Cuba, North Korea, North Africa, Iran, Sharjah and Thailand, as well as to recover its Cathedral in Nice and to build a Cathedral in Paris.
ROCOR’s task is to carry out this mission to the People in our canonical territory – that is, outside the former Soviet Union and outside the areas where we have difficulty operating for political or financial reasons. Thus, our mission covers a huge part of the world - North, South and Central America, Australasia, Indonesia, South Korea, Nepal and Pakistan and parts of Western Europe where we have been established for generations. In order to carry out our tasks, we have not only to keep the faith among our many peoples but also to open ourselves to mission. This means translating, celebrating and singing our services in many languages in much of the planet.
In these parts of the world the fact that ROCOR is based in New York and is self-governing is of vital import. Seen to be independent of Moscow, and yet also completely faithful to the Russian Orthodox Tradition despite moral persecution, ROCOR has the destiny to gather in as many peoples as possible before the end, precisely in those territories where God has granted us the freedom and means to operate. Our faithfulness is therefore to the Son made incarnate in global Orthodox Christendom and all the people who spiritually enter into the Body of Christ, even though they are scattered across the face of much of the earth. We are responsible to God for the territories entrusted to us, just as the rest of the Church is responsible for the territories entrusted to Her. In this we need to work closely together.
Sovereignty: Faithfulness to the Father
One of the most severe tests was the Civil War of the 20th century. Our people were divided and killed each other in the name of a better life. We were not able to build a happy life based on spilt blood. Only when we gave up civil confrontation, when people joined forces, when we reconciled with each other, then, there was hope for a renewal of national life.
Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and All the Russias, Syria, 1/14 November 2011
Beyond our faithfulness to Orthodoxy (‘The Tradition’) and our mission to the People, there is also our faithfulness to the Sovereignty of multinational ‘Rus’. ‘Rus’ is not Russia, it is not even Great Russia, Little Russia (the Ukraine), White Russia (Belarus) and Carpatho-Russia (Carpatho-Rus). It is faithfulness to the whole multinational and multilingual concept of Sovereign Orthodox Christendom, to ‘Romaiosini’, to the common Orthodox values in all the Local Churches. Thus, in the past the secular leaders of Orthodox Christendom were always the Emperors of New Rome and then of the Third Rome.
It has always been our prayer in ROCOR that in the future our secular leaders will again be the Emperors of the Third Rome. In other words, the faithfulness of ROCOR has always been to Imperial Orthodoxy, that is, to the Orthodoxy which is sacramentally incarnate in social, political and economic life, in a way of life, not to some mere disincarnate, gnostic idea in the anti-sacramental Protestant manner. Today ROCOR’s faithfulness to the ideal of Sovereignty, Her keen hope for the restoration of an Orthodox Emperor, is shared by all other Churched Orthodox in the Russian and the other Local Orthodox Churches. We are only waiting our time.
Conclusion: Sovereignty, People and Tradition
These thoughts (about Orthodoxy, Sovereignty and People) may serve for the future rebirth of the Russian Orthodox State, without which the rebirth of the whole world is also unthinkable.
Archbishop Vitaly of Montreal in his Foreword to Orthodoxy, Sovereignty and the People by D.A. Khomyakov, 1982
In conclusion, ROCOR will continue to exist as long as we are faithful to the Sovereignty of the Father, to the Incarnation of the Son and to the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit – to Sovereignty, People and Tradition. These are essential to our Church identity. The Church is One, as can be seen in our unshakeable faithfulness to Christ, that is, in our faithfulness to His Orthodox Church and Tradition. And the Church is Holy, as can be seen in our confession of the primacy of the Tradition and authentic monastic life in Church and society. The Church is also Catholic, as can be seen in our sense of supranational Orthodox unity. And the Church is Apostolic, as can be seen in our openness to the Non-Orthodox world which makes our mission to it possible.
The Greek word martyr means ‘witness’. In the twentieth century we saw in one part of the Russian Church the greatest period of martyrdom - witness - in the history of humanity. Today, for the moment at least, we in the other part of the Russian Church, ROCOR, continue in that other form of witness – in confessordom, which is expressed not by blood, but by the tears that we suffer from others, by the sweat of work and by the water of the baptism of the nations. In our context, to be confessors means to be faithful witnesses to the mission to which we are called, that is, to be witnesses to the Sovereignty of the Father, to the Incarnation of the Kingdom of His Son among all the People of the earth, and to the Holy Spirit through the Church and Her Orthodox Tradition.
And in this we in our territory work together with the rest of Russian Orthodoxy in its territory, helping and supporting one another. There is no question that ROCOR will be abolished because She is unneeded. Quite the contrary. The time is coming, and soon is, when all the Russian Orthodox bishops outside Russia, some twenty-four in all, whatever their nationality and native language, shall meet together to begin to form a greater ROCOR, bringing together all Russian Orthodox outside the territory of the former Soviet Union and its Autonomous Churches in Japan and China. This much-expanded ROCOR will cover not only our traditional territories like the Americas, Australasia and Western Europe, but also territories like Thailand, Cuba, Iran and the Muslim world, and will be made up of Regional Metropolia.
Abolish ROCOR? Absurd. Never has there been a time when ROCOR has so much been needed as the present. We call on all in the Diaspora who derive their being from the Russian Orthodox Tradition to join us in the greater ROCOR which is to come. The Great Ship is at sea. If we are to keep faith with ‘the authentic and uncompromised Orthodox Tradition’, as our Patriarch has called us to do, then it is time to leave the last fragile lifeboats before they capsize and to get on board, for the oceans of this world are stormy indeed.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips
4/17 November 2011