Home

 
 
 


AN APPEAL Of the Pastoral Conference of the Clergy of the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

I. It is with deep sorrow and anxiety that we, the clergy of the Western American Diocese, having gathered together in the God-preserved city of San Francisco, have come to learn about statements and actions in the midst of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia which have been provoked by mistrust and misunderstanding, and sometimes even deliberate distortion of the Epistle and Resolutions of the latest Council of Bishops of our Church. Our conscience and our hearts cannot be at peace because of the actions taken against the Church and because of the rude and sometimes insolent and unfounded accusations directed towards our Higher Church Authority in the persona of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, as well as towards individual archpastors. We are grieved that the very basis of lawful and canonical church governance in the spirit of true conciliarity is trampled upon. Because of this, dissension is sown in the midst of the Church, and this, consequently, leads to schism, which according to the teaching of the Holy Fathers is worse than heresy. We are praying, especially before the Directress of the Russian Diaspora, the miraculous Kursk-Root Icon, and the relics of Saint John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, so that peace, unity, trust, the softening of hearts, love, calm, and sobriety will triumph in all parts of our Church Abroad. For when one member of our church body is hurting then the entire Church is in pain. We feel this pain acutely. Amongst those rising up against our archpastors, the Council of Bishops, and their Resolutions, we find not only laymen, but clergymen as well. We would like to believe that they are not acting consciously, but out of ignorance or as a result of hidden provocation. Their actions and words are so foreign to the spirit of trust, love, and obedience to the Church, a spirit to which we, the clergy, were called to by our archpastor of many years, the Most Reverend Archbishop Anthony, a man of prayer, who passed away in the Lord last year. We are trying not only to remember his loving heart, but to live according to his testaments. In regards to the above, we, the clergy of the Western American Diocese, participants in the Pastoral conference, unanimously express our support, oneness of mind, and fidelity to the Most Reverend First-Hierarch of our Church, Metropolitan Vitaly and the entire Council of Bishops, as well as to our newly assigned Ruling archpastor, the Right Reverend Bishop Kyrill of Western America and San Francisco. We consider and believe that the Holy Spirit has been guiding and continues to guide our archpastors in their conciliar resolutions, and thus we express our complete agreement with both the past Epistles and Resolutions of the Council of Bishops, as well as with the Epistle and Resolutions of the latest Council of Bishops in October of the year 2000. Because of the current discord in some parts of the Church our archpastors are in even greater need of the prayers and support of the clergy and faithful loyal to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. We call all of our co-pastors and flock to this as well. At the same time, it is with tears that we beg those of our co-pastors and faithful who do not accept the decisions of the Council of Bishops, those who are revolting against the hierarchy and bringing into temptation the "little ones", to return to the path of true church life, obedience, love, and trust.

II. Because of the above mentioned perturbations and opposition to Higher Church Authority, we consider it necessary, at least briefly, to witness that no radical change in the course of the Church or departure from Her historical position took place at the Council of Bishops in the year 2000. The Epistle and Resolutions of this Council are in complete agreement with all of the previous conciliar resolutions and precisely reflect the unchanging, historical course of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and Her relationship to the Moscow Patriarchate. Opponents to the latest Council of Bishops are trying to show that the "new course" of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia lies in the recognition of the Moscow Patriarchate as the "Mother Church". First, the expression "Mother-Church" is nowhere to be found in the conciliar resolutions and Epistles of the Council of 2000. Second, it is completely absurd for the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, founded in 1920 in accordance with Holy Patriarch Tikhon's Ukase, to consider the Moscow Patriarchate its Mother Church. The Moscow Patriarchate was unlawfully founded an entire seven years later in 1927 after the usurpation of the lawful Church Authority by Metropolitan Sergius, the Deputy to the Locum Tenens to the Patriarchal Throne. At that time he issued the infamous "Declaration" of the Church's complete loyalty to the godless Soviet State. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has always refused to consider the new church structure created by Metropolitan Sergius to be lawful and canonical; it refuses this to this very day. How can our Church consider the hierarchal structure created by Metropolitan Sergius to be canonical, when a number of the Moscow Patriarchate's best church historians themselves refer to Metropolitan Sergius' authority as "non-canonical" (see the Acts of Holy Patriarch Tikhon published by the Saint Tikhon Theological Institute in Moscow)? For the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia the Mother Church always was and always will be the historical Local Russian Orthodox Church in Her fullness. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has always considered itself to be merely the free part of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is erroneous to consider that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is defined solely by its opposition to the Moscow Patriarchate. The essence of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in not in the rejection of something, but in the constructive "building up" in Christ: in the confession of true Orthodoxy to the whole world; in the preservation of the fullness of the teaching and traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church; and the transmission of these without change to the future generations; in the nurturing of Russian Orthodox people in the Diaspora; in helping the suffering Russian people in the Homeland; in missionary activity, in the enlightenment of the people of all nations where Russians have settled with the light of Christ's Truth. Among the most important sacred duties of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has been to witness the truth about the persecuted Church in the enslaved Russian land and to dispel every lie issuing forth from official representatives of the godless authority, including the lies by hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate obedient to this authority. In order to fulfill this sacred duty ? to speak the truth about the actual condition of the Church in the Homeland ? cautious and careful observation by the archpastors and pastors of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia of all aspects of church life in Russia were and are required. An honest and objective approach to assessing the events in our Homeland cannot limit itself exclusively to negative statements. In the course of the entire nearly seventy-five year period after the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has decisively condemned the Moscow Patriarchate leadership's cooperation with the godless authority and their false statements on the true condition of the Church under the Soviet yoke. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia immediately and fully justifiably stated that while the church authority under Metropolitan Sergius and his successors continues to have close ties and submits to the directives of the godless authorities, She cannot have any communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. However, at no time and in no manner has the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia broken its spiritual ties with the much-suffering Russian people and with those clergymen who have faithfully continued to fulfill their pastoral duties in the most difficult of circumstances. The Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia under the ever-memorable Metropolitan Philaret's leadership wrote about this in 1981. While condemning the union between the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate and the godless authorities, the Synod of Bishops in its Resolution of August 12/25, 1981 stated: "This [absence of liturgical communion] does not interfere with the fact that we are observing the currents of religious life in Russia with sorrow and love for our people. In some cases we see complete ruin. Nonetheless, in other cases we at least see attempts by some, even while formally submitting to the Patriarchate, to remain free of the apostatical politics of her leaders, thus trying in this way to attain salvation even on the territory of a kingdom of the antichrist". "Any degree of departure from Sergianism can be considered a step in the direction of pure Orthodoxy, although not yet opening the road to our communion." "Our interest in the events of church life in Russia cannot help but to take note of the more positive phenomena on the background of complete apostasy as well. We should not limit our attention exclusively to those things that deserve unconditional condemnation". This is what the Synod of Bishops wrote under the presidency of Metropolitan Philaret 20 years ago. For the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox faithful were never synonymous. And never, not in any official documents, did the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia state that the Moscow Patriarchate was void of grace. On the contrary, in their official Epistles our First-Hierarchs and archpastors have often spoken of the courageous struggles of the Russian faithful ? of those who attended and participated in Divine Services in those few churches that were open (obviously not catacomb churches, since the Catacomb Church did not and could not have any open churches). For example, in 1960 Metropolitan Anastassy in his Homily on the "Sunday of All Saints Who have Shone Forth in the Russian Land" noted that Holy Russia is alive not only in the Catacomb Church, but that: "She still lives in the hearts of those Russian people who have remained faithful to Orthodoxy, who openly confess it, zealously attending any churches that have remained open in Russia" (Reprinted in "Orthodox Russia", No. 10, 1999). Likewise, in 1964, the Council of Bishops under the presidency of Metropolitan Philaret and with the participation of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco the Wonderworker, the current First-Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Metropolitan (then Archbishop) Vitaly, and Archbishop Averky (Taushev), in its Epistle writes: "They [the god-opposing Communists] have contrived a new, truly diabolical plan in their war against the faithful: it is forbidden by the godless government of the USSR for children and young men and women from the ages of 3 to 18 to be allowed into God's churches and to be communed with the Body and Blood of Christ. And in order to mock the Church even more, this directive by the authorities has to be enforced by the clergymen themselves? they are the ones who must prohibit youth from approaching the Chalice of Christ and demand the removal of children and youth from the churches". Could it be that the archpastors of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia under Metropolitan Philaret would make such a statement if they considered the above mentioned clergymen of the Moscow Patriarchate to be without grace and the Sacraments performed by them to be invalid? The opposition to the latest Council of Bishops maintains that it is "walling itself off" from those who consider the Moscow Patriarchate a part of the Russian Orthodox Church. In that case they should be reminded that they are also walling themselves off from Metropolitan Philaret, who, in his "Epistle to My Fellow Orthodox Bishops in Christ and to All to Whom the Fate of the Russian Church is Dear" (1965) wrote the following: "However, in the Soviet Union, besides the True Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate, who have no liturgical or other contact between themselves, there exists yet a third part of the Russian Church (emphasis added)? free of persecution and repression ? the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia". In 1994 the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia spoke about these various parts of the Russian Orthodox Church. In their Epistle, the Bishops stated the following: "Conscious of our own responsibility before God and men, we, the hierarchs of the Church of Russia who are free of all outside interference, propose that the time has come to seek active contact with all the parts of the One Russian Orthodox Church, which have been separated from one another as a result of historical circumstances". Incidentally, this conciliar resolution was signed by the former Bishop Valentine (Rusanstev) who subsequently fell into schism. When we read all of these Epistles of the past Councils of Bishops and First-Hierarchs it becomes apparent that no contradiction, no "change" in the course of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has taken place. On the contrary, the latest Epistle is a continuation of past Councils and constitutes with them an organic, complete and consistent, integrated ecclesiastical world-view and course. The efforts of a small group of opponents of the Council of Bishops of 2000 to distort the truth about the historical positions of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, their statements, open letters, responses, appeals and opinions, distributed almost exclusively by e-mail and over the internet, will prove to be in vain. As a rule, the spirit of these "statements", their tone and at times rudeness, animosity and audacity, reveal how foreign to the true spirit of the Church these authors are and how gravely they are in error. During these days of Great Lent the Holy Church especially prays: "may the tongue be cleansed from improper speech" (First prayer of the faithful, Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts). The Church also warns us that "vain words [should] not find entry to our sense of hearing" (ibid.). How sad it is that new members of the Church are influenced by the "vain words" of those opposed to the Higher Church Authority and its decisions! Often these relatively new members have insufficient knowledge or are insufficiently acquainted with the extensive material witnessing to the true historical course of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. And, likewise, many do not have sufficient experience in church life. Seeds of doubt are sown in the minds of these "little ones", and this brings anxiety, dissension, and disobedience into the fold of the Church. It is appropriate to recall the words of the ever-memorable Archbishop Anthony of Geneva and Western Europe regarding obedience in the Church: "You know that in the Church there exists a hierarchy, in which the lower members must submit themselves to the higher. So, for example, if a bishop does not submit himself to the Council of Bishops, then he ceases to be a bishop of the Church of the Christ. If a priest does not listen to his bishop, he ceases to be a priest. If a layman does not listen to his pastors, he ceases to be a Christian. In this way all of the Church of Christ is based on obedience to God and every one who is a member of the Church is bound by this obedience" (Reprinted in "Orthodox Russia", No. 17, 1999). Let us also recall the strict warnings of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia under the presidency of Metropolitan Philaret. These warnings, although written 20 years ago, are entirely applicable to the contemporary situation and state of Church life: "If no one is supposed to condemn his neighbor in haste, even more care is demanded where our own Primate is concerned. [Note: at that time the Synod was concerned with criticism directed at the Metropolitan. In our situation it would be quite appropriate to change the word 'Primate' to 'Higher Church Authority', since our contemporary critics are directing their accusations against the entire Council of Bishops.] Rash implications about his allegedly unorthodox preaching as well as open criticism in sermons reveal a tendency towards condemnation and division which is unseemly in Christians. The Apostle said, 'Who art thou that judgest another man's servant?' How much more appropriate might it be to say. 'Who art thou that judgest thy Metropolitan?' Such an attitude, which can easily develop into schism, is strongly censured by the canons of the Church, for it shows willful appropriation by clerics of the 'judgment belonging to metropolitans' (Canon XIII of the First-and-Second Council). Everyone must be very careful in his criticism, particularly when expressing it publicly, remembering that 'Judgment and justice take hold on thee' (Job 36, 17 Septuagint translation). If, contrary to the apostolic teaching about hierarchical distribution of duties and responsibilities, all the clerics and laymen were to supervise their hierarchs (I Cor. 12, 28-30), then instead of being a hierarchical Body of Christ, our Church would turn into a kind of democratic anarchy where the sheep assume the function of the shepherd. A special grace is bestowed upon bishops to help them in their work. Those who seek to control their bishop should be reminded of Canon LXIV of the Sixth Ecumenical Council which quotes the words of St. Gregory the Theologian: Learning in docility and abounding in cheerfulness, and ministering with alacrity, we shall not all be the tongue which is the more active member, not all of us apostles, not all prophets, nor shall we all interpret. And again: Why dost thou make thyself a shepherd when thou art a sheep? Why become a head when thou art a foot? Why dost thou try to be a commander when thou art enrolled in the number of the soldiers?.." "The situation of the Church in Russia is without precedent, and no norms can be prescribed by any one of us separately. If the position of the Catacomb Church would change relative to its position in past years, any change in our attitude would have to be reviewed not by individual clergymen or laymen but only by the Council of Bishops, to which all pertinent matters should be submitted" (Copy of the Resolutions of the Synod of Bishops from August 12/25, 1981, signed by Bishop Gregory Grabbe). It is sad that by their actions, today's critics of the latest Council of Bishops, possibly not even realizing it, are bringing joy to the enemies of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and especially to the ancient enemy of our salvation. It is common knowledge that in the course of decades, organs of the KGB and their obedient collaborators have attempted to do everything possible towards the annihilation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Today's "antagonists" continue their work. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is being attacked from two sides: ecumenists and modernists on one side and on the other? the "super-correct of True Orthodoxy". In today's assaults on the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia we see how both the Moscow Patriarchate's renovationist elements and the followers of the so-called "Bishop of Suzdal" Valentine, the Bostonite group of former Archimandrite Panteleimon and other pseudo-catacomb and pseudo-Orthodox groups have joined together. Back in the IV century Saint Gregory the Theologian wrote about such assaults from both sides: "Whosoever remains in peace and bends not to the one, nor to the other side, endures evil from both sides: either they despise him, or they attack him." (Homily 23, "On Peace"). Are not the archpastors of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in their fullness in this very predicament? The ever-memorable hieromonk of our Western American Diocese, Father Seraphim (Rose), wrote the following in 1976: "The royal path of true Orthodoxy today is a mean that lies between the extremes of ecumenism and reformism on the side, and a zeal not according to knowledge (Rom. 10, 5) on the other. True Orthodoxy does not go in step with the times on the one hand, nor does it make strictness or correctness or canonicity (good in themselves) an excuse for pharisaic self-satisfaction, exclusivism, and distrust, on the other" ("Orthodox Word", September-October, 1976, p. 147). It is in the spirit of brotherly love that we remind our brothers in Christ that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia zealously prays for the union of all separated parts of the Russian Orthodox Church. In the prayer to the Holy New-Martyrs of Russia, confirmed by the Council of Bishops under the presidency of Metropolitan Philaret (1981), we hear the following plea: "O Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of the Church of Russia, hear our fervent prayer! Implore of God... that all schism in our Church shall cease, so that we may all be one..." The clergymen of the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, gathered at the pastoral conference, heard a talk dedicated to the memory of a great archpastor of the Russian Church, the last bishop of the old school of Blessed Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), the ever-memorable Archbishop Anthony of Western America and San Francisco. A month before his repose, on the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, 2000, he said the following: "Contemporary Russia hangs between radiant hope and darkness. She can resurrect or be lost forever." "Tomorrow the Moscow Patriarchate will canonize the Royal Martyrs... this is good, this is the first step. We canonized the Royal Martyrs for both their pious life and for their martyric end. But we should welcome the Moscow Patriarchate for their initial step. Many things still separate us, but this first step gives hope. Despite everything we should manifest goodness". In these days of Great Lent we call upon both our flock and our co-pastors who are in the bosom of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and especially those who are disobedient and are causing unrest and temptation, to heed the words of our righteous hierarch and despite everything to "manifest goodness" so that with joy, peace, a pure conscience, heartfelt simplicity, and love we may greet Him, Who rose on the third day, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of our Church.

All the Participants of the Pastoral Conference of the Western American Diocese
2/15 of March, 2001 Third Week of Great Lent San Francisco, California