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The Current Situation of The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia Regarding The Moscow Patriarchate and the other Orthodox Churches
In recent times much disinformation and misinformation has been published
on past and present relations between the Russian Orthodox Church outside
Russia (ROCOR) and the Moscow Patriarchate and other local Orthodox Churches.
As a parish priest of the Church outside Russia, I wish to correct a number
of misleading prejudices.
The Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia or ROCOR (sometimes inaccurately
called the Russian Church Abroad - ROCA) came into being in November 1920. At
that time all thirty-four Russian Orthodox bishops and their flocks outside
Russia received temporary autocephaly (independence) from the Russian Orthodox
Church inside Russia by decree No 362 of Patriarch Tikhon. Independence was
granted for as long as the Church inside Russia was persecuted. St Tikhon
founded the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia because he knew that Russian
Orthodox living in freedom would never accept the authority of a Church whose
administration was being subverted from within. The Bishops abroad would therefore
have to manage their own affairs, organising themselves into a united Synod.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of atheist
Communism in Russia and elsewhere, all direct persecutions have gradually ceased.
In the secular world we can even see the remarkable co-operation, even alliance,
between the former Cold War enemies, Washington and Moscow, against the threat
of Islam. Indeed, in the last ten years, albeit painfully slowly, Moscow
Patriarchate bishops inside Russia have begun to free themselves from their
Communist heritage. Facing pressure from the grassroots, whose faith is identical
with that of the Church outside Russia, some bishops have finally begun to abandon
their former ways. Sadly, however, there has never been any direct personal
repentance and many bishops are still tainted with their KGB agent code-names
and now stand accused of money-laundering and other criminal activities.
Nevertheless, in the Year 2000, eight years after Yeltsin came to power, those
bishops finally gained the courage to recognize some of the already canonized
New Martyrs, including the Royal Martyrs, and indirectly reject the historic
collaboration of the Church authorities with the atheist Soviet State. The Church
Outside Russia has viewed these changes with joy, noting how the episcopate of
the Church inside Russia, though still calling itself 'the Moscow Patriarchate',
is at last repenting. Despite its obvious chauvinist erastianism, its recent
persecutions of the Church outside Russia and its attempts to steal its property,
it is drawing nearer to the Orthodox Tradition, so faithfully kept for eighty
years by the Church outside Russia and so valued by all the faithful.
We look forward to the day when the whole episcopate of the Moscow Patriarchate
will de facto abolish itself and return to the Orthodox Christianity of the
faithful. Although there is still much to do, that day is much nearer than it
was ten years ago.
We are still waiting for the profound divisions and disagreements about
Sergianism, ecumenism and other issues among the episcopate of the Moscow
Patriarchate to be overcome. The episcopate of the Moscow Patriarchate needs
to establish unanimity within itself on such basic questions. Let it heed the
traditional faith of its own people, the guardians of the Orthodox Faith.
We still pray that the old guard of bishops of the Patriarchate, disciples
mainly of the old-fashioned heretic Nikodim of Leningrad, will get out of
their limousines and finally begin to listen to grassroots Russian Orthodoxy
on issues like modernism.
Then the two-decade old canonization of all the New Martyrs by the Church
outside Russia can at last be recognized in Russia.
Then Sergianism can be condemned by name and those who so valiantly resisted
it be duly honoured.
Then the theological and liturgical illiteracy of new calendar renovationism
and ecumenism, 'general confession' and no confession at all, secret prayers
read aloud, and the Protestantizing and Catholicizing philosophies of the
Schmemanns, Meyendorffs and Mens et al, can be put aside.
If, God willing, the day of outward unity between the two parts of the Russian
Church comes, it is clear that the Church inside Russia will return to
concelebration and communion with the Church outside Russia. Our Church has
been praying for this day for over eighty years together with all the faithful
Russian Orthodox inside Russia, with whom we have always confessed our spiritual
In such a case those Orthodox Churches, which in the 1960s under pressure from
the Communist Party of the Soviet Union officially cut themselves off from
communion and concelebration with the Church outside Russia, will also fall
into line again. The slanders against the Church outside Russia, which almost
alone from the decadent sixties on, faithfully followed the path of confession
of the Orthodox Tradition, will be repented for. Of course we shall always feel
a particular debt to the Church of Serbia which never bowed to that Communist
pressure and always remained in communion and concelebrated with the Church
That day has not come yet. Indeed, we do not even know if that day will ever
come. If by the grace of God, it does come, it will be positive for all faithful
Should that day come, we do not know what will follow it, in organizational
terms. The present Patriarch of Moscow suggested that the temporary autocephaly
of the Church outside Russia, granted in 1920, be made permanent. This, after
all is the solution adopted for Russian and Non-Russian Orthodox in other
lands outside Russia, like Japan, the Ukraine, Belorussia and perhaps soon
in Estonia. Thus there is no reason why the autocephalous and politically free
administration of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia should not continue
to be centred in New York, with autonomous Exarchates in the Americas, Western
Europe and Australasia, more or less as now. Such Exarchates, established for
all who have remained faithful to the Russian Orthodox Tradition, could become
the missionary foundation-stones of new local Orthodox Churches.
Obviously, here in Felixstowe we shall follow the decisions of the renewed
episcopate of our Synod of Bishops under Metropolitan Laurus. The Church is an
episcopal Church and our Bishops must be followed. As regards what difference
future changes could make in Felixstowe, I suspect none at all. As before, we
shall continue, unperturbed by enemies from all sides who over the years have
hated us and attempted to hijack and disfigure the Orthodox Christian Tradition
that we have inherited and to which we are faithful. As before we shall continue
to tread the royal path, the middle way, resisting the extremes of narrow-minded
fanaticism, be it the intolerant liberal variety or the sectarian isolationist
variety. The Church will go on, and the gates of hell will not prevail.
Priest Andrew Phillips, Seekings House
26 October/8 November 2001
Great-Martyr Demetrius of Salonica