DIOCESE OF ISHIM AND SIBERIA: July 10, 2006
Epistle of Bishop Evtikhii of Ishim and Siberia to the Clergy and Flock of the Parishes of the Russian Church Abroad Inside Russia
Dear in the Lord Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!
The All-Diaspora Council and Council of Bishops held last May clearly showed us that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has assumed the path of canonical and Eucharistic communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. This does not mean that the problems of ecumenism and "Sergianism" are cast aside and forgotten. No. But we must admit that the Moscow Patriarchate has already distinctly and lucidly outlined its rejection of the "branch theory" and of the "baptismal" ecclesiology, which are features of ecumenism as a heretical teaching. Just as clearly, the Moscow Patriarchate rejected participation in ecumenical "divine services." The basis for division can only be differences in the teaching of the faith. As far as the rejection of the "Declaration" of 1927, it is gradually happening. The main milestones of such rejection were the glorification of the host of New Martyrs together with the Royal Family, and the adoption of a new Social Concept in 2000. But we must also admit that we eagerly note every word of praise for Metropolitan Sergius, but do not notice any of the words of condemnation of his ecclesiastical policy, especially when these errors are not tied to the name "Sergius." I was surprised to learn during the Councils that even the hardened opponents of unity with the Moscow Patriarchate from abroad have already removed the problem of "Sergianism" from their list of objections. I must attest to the fact that the problem of "Sergianism" has subsided thanks to the sum of changes in the Moscow Patriarchate to such a great degree that it can no longer be considered a problem that would justify division. Thus, the reasons that could cause dissatisfaction with the course selected by the Russian Church Abroad on canonical communion with the Moscow Patriarchate are being removed.
The manifestation of this course in practice will demand time, and it is impossible to set any timetable for it. Ahead lies the labor of reconciliation and the confirmation by ecclesiastical authority of both parts of the Russian Church of the main tenets which would permit the possibility of Eucharistic communion and canonical unity. After these discussions and confirmations are made, all that is left is for the Hierarchies to sign the Act. But this will take from several months to a year. After that, the parishes of the Russian Church Abroad in Russia will enter a "transitional phase." It has not been officially outlined yet. Most likely, this could last some five years. The purpose of such a period is to grant the clergy and parishes the opportunity to determine their place in the dioceses of the Moscow Patriarchate, so as not to instantly leave our parishes to the local ecclesiastical authorities, with whom there are irreconcilable differences in some cases, but to try to help them correct these relations and find suitable options for the continuation of pastoral and parish work within the diocesan structures of the Moscow Patriarchate. Some priests, it may be, will choose a new place to reside, others will not require the full period of the transitional phase and will immediately and painlessly flow into the local diocese upon the signing of the Act of Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate.
It would be a mistake for us now to try to refute the decisions of the Councils or to seek within them ways to oppose the process of reconciliation. This is an idle and unhealthy waste of the valuable time granted to us by the Lord to labor over the salvation of our souls. For pastors, another difficult and crucial task lies ahead. Firstly, they themselves must discern God's will in this ecclesiastical matter and submit their own feelings, intentions and actions to this Divine will; secondly, they must persuade their parishioners in the correctness of this ecclesiastical course of reconciliation; thirdly, they must help themselves and their parishioners overcome the sinful influences which would hinder the spirit of church unity: pride, grumbling, disobedience, conceit, self-pity and mercantile interests. Only by arming ourselves with love, self-denial, humility, courage and prayer—that is, with Christian good works—can we overcome our failings and our God-battling tendencies towards rebellion and schism.
Just how vain the efforts are of the enemies of church unity, as they search for those who think likewise among those who are dissatisfied by their Hierarchs for various reasons, can be seen clearly in the sad history of the "Vitalyite" schism.
These schismatics have divided amongst themselves, and subjected each other to grave condemnations. The underhanded gimmick of justifying themselves with the signature of the ill Metropolitan is used in this "intra-schismatic" struggle. It is impossible to create anything pleasing to God on the basis of enmity and conceit. As I said in the early stages of the process of negotiations, so now do I state that in the matter of canonical communion of the two parts of the Local Russian Church, he is more right who humbles himself the most.
I have already shared with many my experiences during the IV All-Diaspora Council which led me to the undeniable conviction that the will of God lies in the unity of the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate within the one body of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Now I have the joy of fulfilling my archpastoral duty with the inner peace within my Christian conscience, that I, the sinner, have been granted by God.
I ask you, dear pastors, brothers and sisters, to conscientiously apply your efforts to supporting the achievement of God-pleasing unity. I ask all of you to spend more time in prayer, in reading Scripture, in thinking of God, rather than in doubt, quarrel, condemnation and accusations against the Hierarchy.
The Holy Spirit and the Holy Councils have decided to establish a new harvest-field of Christ under new circumstances of the unity being reestablished within the Russian Church, which had been destroyed through the efforts of the godless Bolshevik tyranny. Let no one doubt that this work pleases God.
Bishop of Ishim and Siberia
June 7, 2006