Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov
The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad Today
A Report to the All-Diaspora Clerical Conference
Well known are the circumstances of the emergence of the Russian Church Abroad in the 1920's, a result of the bloody Revolution and the forced evacuation from their homeland of a vast number of Russian people. Equally well-known is the establishment of the Church Abroad in accordance with Ukase No. 362 of His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon, his Synod, and his Council, dated November 7th (20th), 1920.
In discussing the question of relations between the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate, it is necessary to determine the state of the Russian Church Abroad today, after almost a century of existence over four generations of Orthodox people of Russian origin, and of those who converted to Orthodoxy. We are confident that the Russian Church Abroad is a genuinely free and conciliar Church of the Diaspora, which has never severed its spiritual and juridical oneness with the Mother Church of Russia, as the resolution of the Council of Bishops Abroad, dated August 27th (September 9th, 1927), bears witness. Reading this momentous resolution, we see that the Church Abroad
Ònot separating Herself from Her Mother Church and not considering Herself autocephalous, was in full spiritual and administrative subordination canonically to the Moscow Patriarchate during Patriarch Tikhon's time, but ceased all relations with it and its hierarchy following the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, who betrayed the Russian Church into the hands of its most inveterate foe, entering into union with the militantly atheistic regime, but the Church Abroad maintains as before its faithfulness to the Mother Church of Russia and has taken upon Herself the lofty mission of preserving all the foundations, traditions, and grandeur of Russian Orthodoxy and the Russian Orthodox Church and to speak freely and openly throughout the whole world in the name of the enslaved Mother Church.
The Russian Church Abroad has maintained this mission all these years. The vitality of the Church Abroad has always been manifest in its spiritual liberty, conciliar administration and thought. The Church Abroad stands firmly on the confession of its three Pan-Diaspora Councils; it is governed by the Council of Bishops, diocesan and parish assemblies, in the spirit of a freely chosen adherence to the unadulterated Truth of Orthodoxy. The Russian Church Abroad possesses genuine freedom, not being subject to the control of secular powers, should the latter challenge the spiritual nature of the Church or attempt to lead it into the stream of apostate global moral order. As a result of Her conviction and firm stance, the Church Abroad was able not only to preserve Herself spiritually throughout the 20th Century, but also to have a positive and restraining influence on the entire Orthodox world.
Thus, in 1981, witnessing the signs of apostate trends in the Orthodox world, the Church Abroad glorified the choir of the Russian New Martyrs and Confessors, led by the Royal Martyrs, an act which resonated throughout the Orthodox world.
In 1983, the Church Abroad anathematized ecumenism, in order to protect its flock from the corrupting influence of the ecumenical heresy, which aims in the spirit of the new world order, to destroy faith in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Being strengthened by this stance within unadulterated Orthodoxy, the flock of the Diaspora has zealously participated all these years in the vivifying building of Church life. These are the fruits of their labors: there are functioning monasteries for both men and women, church schools, a theological seminary, youth organizations, missionary work, and the publishing of church periodicals, as well as liturgical and spiritual literature. Church-building is flourishing, as are iconography and church music.
It is a comfort that all these endeavors have been accomplished in a grace-filled manner, under the protection of the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora—the Miracle-working Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God and the now-disappeared Montreal Myrrh-streaming Icon of the Sovereign Lady, and through the intercessions of the saints of God canonized in the Diaspora, among whom a special place is held by Saint John, the great hierarch of San Francisco and Shanghai, whose relics lie accessible in his cathedral.
It is not with the intent of idealizing or self-praise that we gaze upon the grace-filled path which the Church Abroad has trodden in the course of its almost century-long existence. We recall with profound gratitude the holy labors of a whole assembly of champions and confessors of the Faith our Spirit-bearing First Hierarchs and archpastors, who uncompromisingly and with a firm hand rightly divided the word of divine Truth according to the testament of His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon; our humble pastors, who are often forced to combine their pastoral duties with outside employment; our teachers in seminary and schools; our church workers and donors, who have placed the interests of the Church above that of their own well-being. We are indebted to them for that fact that they, like the Prophet Moses, have led us safely through the troubles, horrors, and temptations of the ill-fated 20th century and have instilled in us the determination to go forward along the correct and salvific path.
At the same time, during these same decades, the Church of Russia in the homeland was subject to savage persecution by the militantly atheistic regime, which took the place of the fallen monarchy. Even worse were the temptations of collaboration with the atheists in the liquidation of the True Church. The majority of the clergy and faithful did not succumb to these temptations, preferring martyrdom, confession, and the catacomb existence, rather than going the way of compromise. A parallel structure of the Russian Church arose which did not share the stance of opposition to atheism, mingling Her interests with the demands of the anti-Church powers, initiating the epoch of so-called Sergianism.
Thus there appeared the tragic schism within the Church of Russia. A natural continuation of this course of the Church's coexistence with the government was the demand of the latter that the official Patriarchate join the World Council of Churches, actively and prayerfully participating in the community of ecumenists, in this way overstepping the bounds of service and general prayer with heretics—in violation of the dogmas of the Orthodox Church and the Traditions of the Holy Fathers. Since the Russian Church Abroad does not, as a matter of principle, bind itself by the ideology of the ÒNew World Order,Ó which propagates ecumenism, it cannot be in union with the adherents of this movement. Thus, it is within these two maladies that one can find the key to the ideological differences between the Russian Church Abroad and the Church of the Moscow Patriarchate of today. It is the duty of both parts of the Church of Russia to find a way to overcome these differences on the basis of one, unified Truth.
We cannot close our eyes to the historical advances which have taken place in the life of Russia during the past decade. We must understand that millions of Russian people are nourished by the Church, despite unbelievable difficulties, weaknesses and irregularities known to all in Russia. Spiritual nourishment is on the rise in the armed forces, in hospitals, and in prisons. We see the zealous strivings of common believers in the restoration of defiled sacred sites, the rebuilding of churches and monasteries from the ruins, the reestablishment of church schools and homes for children, the publishing of a vast number of books of spiritual content. As throughout the world, the youth of Russia are experiencing a moral crisis; nevertheless, young men are filling the clergy and monastic ranks, while young women are summoned to spiritual labors in convents. Many of the youth are involved in the realm of church music. The Russian people very often donate the last remnants of their incomes toward the regeneration of Orthodoxy. The pious efforts of the Russian faithful need to be wholeheartedly supported and applauded.
However, these rank-and file laborers do not set policy, they do not cause spiritual temptations. It is imperative that healthy attention be directed at those who wield power over ecclesiastical ideology on all levels, whose hearts are open to receiving the Truth, and who are willing and ready to overcome the impediments toward the union of the two parts of the Church of Russia— those impediments being servile Sergianism and heretical ecumenism.
That time has come. It is perfectly clear that a respectful and honest dialogue is necessary, one that is condescending toward human weakness, but is without compromise, that is tolerant but firm—firm in the rejection of the sin of heresy, definite in the refusal to subjugate the will of the Church to the will of the world. This healing process must take place in a peaceful manner, not impelled by the acceleration of events; in this it would be do to investigate with prudence and reason all the questions and positions which divide us. We must take into account the individual peculiarities of the past decades of each side, and not lose sight of the expectations and sensibilities of the flock.
Let us look at the reality of the spiritual experience of the Diaspora. Is it not a paradox that the Russian Church Abroad has for many years nurtured thousands of immigrants from Russia in all countries of the Diaspora? And these are people either from parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate or those who are coming to church for the first time in their lives. Inasmuch as these believers are consciously being infused into the life of the Church, this elicits from those parishioners born in the Diaspora no objections.
Such will it also be with the whole Church, if that oneness of mind will be attained in that which now makes a merger impossible. All the Church councils of all times have come to a mutual, correct resolution of questions and disagreements through discussion. There is no reason to fear discussion within dialogue. What should be feared is schism. It is not difficult to cause a schism, but to gather the whole flock into unity borders on the miraculous. We beg such a miracle from the Lord, yet we must render ourselves worthy of this miracle.
As for the Church Abroad, the attainment of the oneness of mind of the whole Church on such a fundamental question as the determination of the fate of the Church Abroad is possible and judicious only for the conciliar consciousness of our whole Church —the clergy and the laity, i.e., through the convocation of a Pan-Diaspora Council.
Concurrently, a conciliar choice on the merging of both parts of the Russian Church must be carried out by a Local Church Council in Russia. Before that time, preparatory work can he carried out for the attainment of oneness of mind by the two parts of the Church of Russia. If both parts of the Church, separate at the present time, approach true oneness of mind with a conciliar will, the path to mutual eucharistic celebration will then be opened. But such concelebration must be preceded by the repentance of the whole people, by fasting and prayer in Russia and in the Diaspora. Thus will the Church of Russia arise to a renewed life, cleansed by tears of repentance, standing on the firm rock of the Truth of the Orthodox, Apostolic Faith.
On this fateful day we must have one, and only one, concern—not to sin against the TRUTH, as we priests pray for when clad in our priestly vestments, before the performance of the bloodless sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist: ÒThy priests, O Lord, are clothed in TRUTH, and thy righteous rejoice.Ó Let there be full truth, and let there be tranquil joy; for where there is peace, there is God.