Address of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to Its Flock
We, the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, assembled at an extraordinary session of the Council of Bishops in nearly full complement, with the exception of those who are ill, to resolve a very important question: the election of the successor to our elderly Metropolitan Vitaly. Because of his advanced age (he is ninety-one) and the poor state of his health, His Eminence the Metropolitan himself saw that it is difficult for him to carry out his duties, and at the July session of the Synod announced his retirement. The Metropolitan's announcement was taken into consideration and a time was appointed (October 23rd-31st ns) for the election of his successor.
At the designated time, October 23rd, 2001, the Council of Bishops, after the Liturgy and a special service of supplication, set about its task. On October 24th, again after the Liturgy, a memorial service for the deceased First Hierarchs and a service of supplication, they proceeded to the voting: the envelopes, in which each of the hierarchs had early placed his vote for the candidate of his choice, were opened. On the first ballot, Archbishop Laurus received an absolute majority of 2/3 of the votes, and thus was proclaimed Metropolitan and next First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The rite of enthronement was performed at the all-night vigil and the Liturgy on the following Saturday and Sunday, the 26th and 27th of October.
On the shoulders of our new First Hierarch lie many years of life as a monk and a bishop. While yet a boy, living near the Monastery of St. Job of Pochaev in Carpatho-Russia, he divided his life between his home and the monastery, an unofficial novice, as it were. When the monastery's brotherhood emigrated farther away, through Germany and Switzerland to the United States, Vladyka Laurus (his name was then Basil) forsook his homeland forever and departed with the brethren.
Over the many years of his monastic life, His Eminence passed through all forms of monastic obedience: he worked in the cow-barn, set type in the print-shop, labored in the office, etc. Having received his theology degree in the Seminary's seventh graduating class, in 1954, he taught many subjects, and ultimately became rector of Holy Trinity Seminary.
Consecrated a bishop in 1967, he has been Secretary of the Synod throughout almost all of his episcopacy, first under Metropolitan Philaret, and later under Metropolitan Vitaly. Possessed of great experience in the work of the Secretary, His Eminence is the natural successor to the work of his eminent predecessors.
The lot of the new First Hierarch is a difficult burden. The cultural powers of our diaspora have weakened, since many have departed to a better world. The younger generations which have grown up in our parishes are called to the service of our Church, but representatives of the third emigration have yet to become sufficiently churchly to effectively participate in the life of the Church.
To this other problems have been added.
In the Letter of our Council of 2000, reactions of approval to several decisions and resolutions of the Moscow Council of 2000 were expressed. As a result of this, certain of those who are overly zealous have protested and disseminated intentionally false rumors that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia had altered its previous course and is moving toward unification with the Moscow Patriarchate, and that it was even inclining toward ecumenism.
Thus, with regret our whole Church has had to endure powerful disturbances hitherto unseen. As if from deep within the bosom of the body of the Church cracks began to appear, though they have not yet developed into deep fissures. We look on with fear as in places they are trying to transform these chinks into rifts which split apart not only the flock, but even the clergy.
What is the reason for these activities? How are we to understand that over the course of nearly a year several clergymen have stirred up the flock, convinced that the Council of Bishops has altered the course of the life of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia?
But the question of unification was not raised, nor is it intended to raise it at the present time. As concerns the Moscow Patriarchate, apart from our relationship with it, whether we wish such a thing or not, its clergy nurture a significant part of the Russian Orthodox people; and if changes are taking place there for the better, we cannot but welcome this. Yet at the same time there is still much that separates us.
When the question of ecumenism was raised at the Moscow Council of 2000, it showed that this problem has not been resolved, since almost all of the episcopate voted for its continued participation in ecumenism, despite the fact that the people and the clergy are opposed to this. Yet within the churches of the Moscow Patriarchate literature and video films are being disseminated which denounce ecumenism.
Although the atheistic Soviet regime of the past no longer exists, and one might assume that Sergianism has likewise passed away together with its founders, in actual fact this is far from the case. One can often hear voices within the Moscow Patriarchate defending the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky), calling it a wise decision, while it was instead a capitulation to the atheistic regime. It is essential to condemn the Declaration, so that a precedent will not be set; lest if (God forbid!) persecutions again arise, it could not be cited as a decision wise in any degree.
And there are other reasons which hinder a rapprochement, but we will not enumerate them here.
We, however, are confronted with the difficult task of guiding our flock primarily under the conditions of the heterodox world. This is complicated even more by modern trends such as a New World Order, or globalism. Although it is political or economic in character, yet its objective is to control political and economic life, not only in one country, but throughout the entire world. These trends also have an influence on men's moral life. In them everything is permissible where profit is concerned; and for this they employ not only the profanation of Christian holidays, but also all manner of diabolical things: and the boundary between good and evil is being erased. As concerns television: most films are replete with scenes of horror, violence, depravity and inhuman superbeings. This exercises a particular influence upon the children, who pay close attention to such things. Our goal in these times is to support in every way, and perhaps to restore, the call to the formation and preservation of the family structure for our children's sake. Governments are concerning themselves with this less and less.
Explanations have been given concerning these anxieties in every way in various venues: from the ambo, at gatherings, by letter and announcements. Each session of the Synod has produced needful elucidations, providing the assurance that our Church not only continues to stand in the Truth, but that it is calling upon its whole flock to be faithful, as before, to Christ and His Church. No deviations or betrayals are conceivable.
We have replied continually over the course of an entire year to all supposed anxieties.
With what can we comfort those of you who are troubled and disquieted, if you are in actual fact seeking the truth?
Everything has already been said: we are not going off in any other direction. One can wage the struggle of standing in the Truth only by preserving the basic Christian virtues. To be faithful to Christ and His Church is the aim of our life, and it is attainable if one has faith and lives in the fear of God, maintaining moral purity, resisting all temptations, and obtaining the gift of sober-mindedness in obedience.
We notice how proclamations of loyalty are accompanied by calls to depart from the existing Church order. This is obviously incompatible. Forgive us for our personal sins. Do not harbor in your hearts malice toward and condemnation of your archpastors, who share your life with you, and in any case will answer for their dioceses before God and the Council of Bishops for their conduct.
The Church is the mystical Body of Christ, and not an organization. Obedience is first and foremost a struggle voluntarily undertaken, and not mere submission. We live in the Church not only in oneness of mind and righteousness, but most of all in oneness of soul.
The events of recent days show how far our earthly life has changed, even in outwardly prosperous America, on a single day nearly six thousand people perished almost instantaneously.
The Holy Church reminds us of this and calls upon us to take care not only for what we need in our daily lives, but also for the salvation of our soul, so that no misfortune may catch us unawares. He who is with God fears nothing.
We call upon you all to rally around our First Hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, and to lead a life closely bound up with the life of the Church. This is difficult, living, as you do, scattered throughout the heterodox world; but with God everything is possible.