Fr Nicholas Gibbes: The First English Disciple of Tsar Nicholas II and the First English Priest of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia

A Talk given at Barton Manor near Osborne House on the Isle of Wight on 7 July 2018.

In this centenary year of the martyrdom of Tsar Nicholas II, his August Family, their servants and the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, it would be well to recall their first English disciple and the first ever English Russian Orthodox priest, Fr Nicholas Gibbes.

Charles Sydney Gibbes, for short Sydney Gibbes, was born 142 years ago, on 19 January 1876. In the 19th century this was for all Orthodox the feast day of St John the Baptist, the voice that cried in the wilderness. His parents were called John and Mary – more English than that you cannot find. His father was a bank manager in Rotherham, just outside Sheffield, in Yorkshire. Amusingly, this would later be recorded by a Russian civil servant on Sydney’s residence papers in Russia as ‘Rotterdam’.

With no fewer than ten siblings, Sydney grew into a stereotypical, Victorian, Protestant young man of the educated classes. He received his education at Cambridge, where he changed the spelling of his surname to Gibbes, from Gibbs, as the adopted form is the older, historical one. This change was typical of his love of historical detail and accuracy. Sydney is described as: severe, stiff, self-restrained, imperturbable, quiet, gentlemanly, cultured, pleasant, practical, simple, brave, loyal, lucid, witty, crisp, vigorous, honourable, reliable, impeccably clean, with high character, of good sense and with agreeable manners. He seems the perfect Victorian English Yorkshire gentleman – not a man with such an unusual destiny.

However, as we know from history, underneath Victorian gentlemen lurked other sides – repressed, but still present. For example, we know that Sydney could be stubborn, that he used corporal punishment freely, that he could be very awkward with others, and he is recorded as having quite a temper, though these traits mellowed greatly with the years. My good friend from Oxford days long ago, Dmitri Kornhardt, recalled how in later life tears would stream down Fr Nicholas’ face when celebrating services in memory of the Imperial Martyrs, but how also he would very rapidly recover himself after such unEnglish betrayals of emotion.

Underneath the Victorian reserve there was indeed a hidden man, one with spiritual sensitivity, who was interested in theatre and theatricals, spiritualism, fortune-telling and palmistry, and one who was much prone to recording his dreams. Perhaps this is why, when after University he had been thinking of the Anglican priesthood as a career, he found it ‘stuffy’ and abandoned that path. Talking to those who knew him and reading his biographies, and there are three of them, we cannot help feeling that as a young man Sydney was searching for something – but he knew not what. The real man would eventually come out from beneath his Victorian conditioning.

Perhaps this is why in 1901, aged 25, he found himself teaching English in Russia – a country with which he had no connection. Here he was to spend over 17 years. The key moment came in autumn 1908 when he went to the Imperial Palace in Tsarskoe Selo and became the English tutor of the Imperial children. In particular, he became close to the Tsarevich Alexis, with whom he identified very closely. Why? We can only speculate that there was a sympathy or else complementarity of characters; together with Sydney’s bachelordom, this may have been enough for the friendship to develop. In any case, he became almost a member of the Imperial Family and a profound and lifelong admirer of what he called, as an eyewitness, their exemplary Christian Faith, close family life and kindness. His meeting with this Family changed his life forever and he only ever spoke of them with profound admiration.

In August 1917 Sydney found himself following the Family to Tobolsk. Utterly loyal to the Family, in July 1918 he found himself in Ekaterinburg, the city in the Urals between Asia and Europe, East and West, after their unspeakable murder in the Ipatiev House. He helped identify objects, returning again and again to the House, picking up mementoes, which he was to cling on to until the end, and still reluctant to believe that the crime had taken place. Coming almost half way through his life when he was aged 42, this was without doubt the crucial event in that life, the turning point, the spark that made him seek out his destiny in all seriousness. With the murder of the Family, the bottom had fallen out of his life, his raison d’etre had gone. Where could he go from here?

He did not, like most, return to England. We know that he, like Tsar Nicholas, had been particularly shocked by what he saw as the British betrayal of the Imperial Family. Indeed, we know that it was George Buchanan, the British ambassador to St Petersburg, who had in part been behind the February 1917 deposition of the Tsar by treacherous aristocrats, politicians and generals. This coup d’etat was greeted by Lloyd George in the House of Commons as the ‘achievement of one of our war aims’. (We now also know from the book by Andrew Cook that it was British spies who had assassinated Gregory Rasputin and also that the Tsar’s own cousin, George V, had refused to help the Tsar and His Family escape).

In fact, disaffected by Britain’s politics, from Ekaterinburg Sydney went not west, but east – to Siberian Omsk and then further east, to Beijing and then Harbin in Manchuria. Off and on he would spend another 17 years here, in Russian China. In about 1922 he suffered a serious illness. His religiosity seems to have grown further and after this he would go to study for the Anglican priesthood at St Stephen’s House in Oxford. However, for someone with the world-changing experience that he had had, that was not his way; perhaps he still found Anglicanism ‘stuffy’, I think he would have found almost anything stuffy after what he had been through – seeing his adopted Family wiped out. Finally, in 1934, in Harbin, Sydney joined the Far Eastern Metropolia of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.

There is no doubt that he did this as a direct result of the example of the Imperial Family, for he took the Orthodox name of Alexis – the name of the Tsarevich, whom he naturally saw as a martyr. He was to describe this act as ‘getting home after a long journey’, words which perhaps describe the reception into the Orthodox Church of any Western person. Thus, from England, to Russia and then to China, he had found his way. In December 1934, aged almost 59, he became successively monk, deacon and priest. He was now to be known as Fr Nicholas – a name deliberately taken in honour of the martyred Tsar Nicholas. In 1935 he was made Abbot by Metr Antony of Kiev, the head of our multinational Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, and later received the title of Archimandrite.

Wishing to establish some ‘Anglo-Orthodox organisation’, in 1937 Fr Nicholas Gibbes came back to live in England permanently. He was aged 61. Of this move he wrote: ‘It is my earnest hope that the Anglican Church should put itself right with the Holy Orthodox Church’. He went to live in London in the hope of setting up an English-language parish within the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. In this he did not succeed and in 1940 he moved to Oxford. In this last part of his life in Oxford he became the founder of the first Russian Orthodox church in Oxford at 4, Marston Street, where he lived in humble and modest circumstances. In recalling the address of that first church, dedicated to St Nicholas, we cannot help recalling that today’s Russian Orthodox St Nicholas church in Oxford is not very far away from it.

Not an organiser, sometimes rather erratic, even eccentric, Fr Nicholas was not perhaps an ideal parish priest, but he was sincere and well-respected. In Oxford he cherished his mementoes of the Imperial Family to the end. Before he departed this life, on 24 March 1963, an icon given to him by the Imperial Family, was miraculously renewed and began to shine. One who knew him at the time confirmed this and after Fr Nicholas’ death, commented that now at last Fr Nicholas was seeing the Imperial Family again – for he had been waiting for this moment for 45 years. He was going to meet once more those who had shaped his destiny in this world.

In the 1980s in an old people’s home outside Paris I met a parishioner of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, Count Nikolai Komstadius. He had met Fr Nicholas in 1954, in connection with the false Anastasia, but perhaps had seen him before, since his father had been in charge of the Tsarskoe Selo estate and he himself had been a childhood friend of the Tsarevich. I remember in the 1980s visiting him. In the corner of his room in front of an icon of the martyred Tsarevich there burned an icon-lamp. He turned to me and said: ‘That is such a good likeness, it is just like him and yet also it is an icon’. Not many of us lives to see a childhood playfriend become a saint and have his icon painted. Yet as a young man in his thirties Fr Nicholas had known a whole family, whom he considered to be saints. Indeed, he had been converted by their example.

There are those who have life-changing experiences. They are fortunate, because they stop living superficially, stop drifting through life and stop wasting God-sent opportunities and so find their destiny. Such life-changing experiences can become a blessing if we allow them to become so. Fr Nicholas was one such person, only his life-changing experience was also one that had changed the history of the whole world. For a provincial Victorian Yorkshire bank manager’s son, who had grown up with his parents John and Mary, he had come very far. And yet surely the seeds had been there from the beginning. To be converted we first of all need spiritual sensitivity, a seeking spirit, but secondly we also need an example. Fr Nicholas had had both, the example being the Imperial Martyrs. As that late and wonderful gentlewoman Princess Koutaissova, whom many of us knew, said of his priesthood: ‘He was following his faithfulness to the Imperial Family’.

In this brief talk I have not mentioned many aspects of Fr Nicholas’ life, such as his possible engagement, his adopted son, his hopes in Oxford. This is because they do not interest me much here. I have tried to focus on the essentials, on the spiritual meaning of his life, his destiny. Those essentials are, I believe, to be found in his haunted and haunting gaze. Looking at his so expressive face, we see a man staring into the distance, focusing on some vision, both of the past and of the future. This vision was surely of the past life he had shared with the martyred Imperial Family and also of the future – his long hoped-for meeting with them once more, his ‘sense of completion’.

 

1,000 Words on the Four Generations of ROCOR

Introduction: The Past 1918

The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) was effectively formed after the martyrdom of the Imperial Family, even if it was only on 20 November 1920 that the besieged and persecuted Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and his Synod in Moscow issued Decree № 362. This instructed all Russian Orthodox bishops outside Soviet territory, unable to keep in contact with a free Moscow, to organize themselves as an independent Synod.

With personal experience and knowledge of both the bright moments and the dark moments in the life of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) over the past almost fifty years, here is a brief sketch of the near-centennial history of ROCOR. This is a history which is varied, filled with diabolical temptations and insidious attacks from internal and external enemies, and yet one in which faithfulness has always in the end prevailed.

The Old ROCOR: 1918-1943

In exile, ROCOR, with over 30 bishops, organized its monastic and parish life worldwide. It included many of the best theologians from the Church before the 1917 Revolution and bravely stood up both to the compromises of senior Church representatives captive in the Soviet Union and to the modernist heresies of the schismatic Paris Jurisdiction. Thus, patriotically, most members of the Church rejoiced in the successful defence of the Russian Lands following the racist Nazi invasion of 1941.

However, there were also more worldly émigrés, dangerous sectarian elements, who were more politicians than Churchmen, and threatened the future of the Church. Especially after the repose of Metr Antony of Kiev in 1936, the first Primate of ROCOR, these elements slowly began to threaten the integrity of the Church leadership. Indeed, just before and during the Second World War such secular political elements even tried to compromise the ROCOR episcopate with Fascism.

The Threat: 1943-1968

After the Second World War these elements, now resettled in the USA, started to try and compromise the Church with the CIA and other dependent spy services. From the 1960s on, indeed, these elements tried to isolate the Church, putting the future St John of Shanghai on trial and linking ROCOR with fanatical old calendarists, making out that all the Local Churches had mysteriously ‘lost grace’, which they alone had conserved.

According to such phariseeism, on account of the political compromises of a few hostage-bishops in Eastern Europe, 100 million Orthodox were condemned, ‘deprived of grace’! Such was the theological nonsense of these extremists. However, these Donatists were opposed by the mass of the Church, who remained faithful to the old ROCOR, remembering the history of the Church before the Revolution and the whole bimillennial Church.

The Time of Troubles: 1968-1993

The situation worsened at the end of the 1960s, though gallant bishops, like the ever-memorable Bishop Sava of Edmonton (+ 1973), Bishop Nectary of Seattle (+ 1983), Archbishop Antony of Geneva (+ 1993) and many faithful priests and laypeople, all disciples of the spirit of St John of Shanghai, resisted. They held faith with the missionary heritage of the Church and genuine monastic life, with the Orthodox Tradition.

Meanwhile, on the political wing, one senior archimandrite debauched nuns and sold and stole property in Jerusalem for $6 million, money which he pocketed, though at last he was defrocked for this and his other crimes. However, his father tried to ally ROCOR with old calendarism and later opened communities which were not on the canonical territory of ROCOR. Some very dark events took place then.

The Rebirth of ROCOR: 1993-2018

In 1993, 75 years after the slaughter of the Royal Martyrs, came the long-awaited canonization of St John of Shanghai, who had so long awaited the canonization of the Royal Martyrs. This was a turning-point, for it meant that the Johannite wing of the Church, the spirit of St John, was winning, whereas the political wing, with its spiritual and moral hypocrisy, love of ritual, pomp and show, was being defeated. Meanwhile, in Moscow in 2000 the compromised of the Church inside Russia repented, at last canonizing the first of the New Martyrs and Confessors, nineteen years after ROCOR, and rejecting political and spiritual compromises. The final victory came in 2007 when ROCOR accepted the repentance of those in Moscow who had compromised themselves during the Soviet period.

However, some in ROCOR itself had also had to repent for the errors which had compromised it with the nonsense of politicized individuals and their naïve followers. In effect, both the old ‘Moscow Patriarchate’ (MP) and the anti-historical sectarian trend in ROCOR in the 1960s-1990s were finished. Even the term ‘MP’ is now used only by polemicists, who cling to the unpleasant past in order to justify their sectarian present. Since 2007, there has only been the Russian Orthodox Church: the 98% inside the Russian Lands and the 2% outside them. We are united by our common saints, the Royal Martyrs, all the tens of thousands of New Martyrs and Confessors who followed them, and the confessor-saints of ROCOR: St Jonah of Hankou (+ 1925), St Seraphim of Sofia (+ 1950) and St John of Shanghai (+ 1966).

Conclusion: The Future 2018

Approaching the third decade of the 21st century and its centenary, today’s ROCOR must stand steadfast in its uncompromising faith. It must stand against geriatric ecumenism, political or academic compromises, which make theology and so Church life into an ideological or intellectual game. It must oppose those who value property and money over human souls, always siding with the saints. ROCOR must be the Local Church, on whatever continent we exist.

Throughout Western Europe, the Americas and Australasia, ROCOR must stand for the local people, whatever their native language and origins. It must stand for already Orthodox people, as well as for people who seek to live according to the Orthodox Tradition. We must stand against ideology, bureaucracy, centralization, politics, what is done for mere show and prestige, for the Orthodox Tradition without either compromise or sectarian foolishness.

Lady Godiva – A Righteous Englishwoman

According to a well-known tradition, Lady Godiva was a noblewoman who rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covering her modesty with her long hair. This was in order to free the townspeople from the taxation that her husband had imposed on them. Although postmodernists have doubted this story, we see no reason to doubt the backbone of the tradition, which does date from at least the twelfth century. Of course, modern misunderstandings should be avoided – for example, Coventry was then a settlement of only a few hundred people and not a major city.

Godiva, in Old English Godgifu, was a popular name, meaning ‘gift of God’. Lady Godiva was probably a widow when she married Leofric, Earl of Mercia. They had one known son, Aelfgar. Both were generous benefactors to monasteries. In 1043 Leofric founded and endowed a monastery in Coventry on the site of a convent destroyed by the Danes in 1016, Godiva being the moving force behind this act. In the 1050s her name was coupled with that of her husband on a grant of land to the monastery of St Mary in Worcester and also on the endowment of the minster at Stow Mary in Lincolnshire.

 She and her husband are also commemorated as benefactors of other monasteries in Leominster, Chester, Much Wenlock and Evesham. Lady Godiva also gave Coventry a number of works in precious metal by the famous goldsmith Mannig and bequeathed a necklace valued at 100 marks of silver. Another necklace went to Evesham, to be hung around the figure of the Virgin accompanying the life-size gold and silver rood she and her husband gave, and St Paul’s Cathedral received a gold-fringed chasuble. She and her husband were among the most generous Old English donors in the last decades before the Norman Conquest.

The manor of Woolhope in Herefordshire, along with four others, was given to the Cathedral in Hereford before the Norman Conquest by Wulviva and Godiva – usually held to be Godiva and her sister. Her signature appears on a charter purportedly given by Thorold of Bucknall to the monastery of Spalding. It is possible that this Thorold, the sheriff of Lincolnshire, was her brother. Leofric died in 1057, but Lady Godiva lived on, dying some time between 1066 and 1086. She is mentioned in the Domesday survey as the only Englishwoman to remain a major landholder shortly after the Norman Occupation. There seems little reason to doubt that she was buried with her husband in Coventry.

Temptation and Opportunity

The recent temptation experienced by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, under intense financial and political pressure from Washington, to set up schismatic Churches under its authority in the Ukraine and (North) Macedonia, has already been publicly condemned by the Churches of Russia, Poland, Serbia, Bulgaria and Georgia. The Churches of Antioch and Czechoslovakia will no doubt agree with them, tired of past meddling from Constantinople. Thus, some 85% of the Church has stood united against uncanonical political interference.

True, the Church of Greece, also tired of past interference from Constantinople, has stood on the fence, as no doubt will the four other tiny, Greek-controlled Churches (Alexandria, Cyprus, Albania and Jerusalem, with scarcely 2 million faithful between them). The Romanian decision, like other decisions there, may perhaps be taken by the US ambassador in Bucharest. The headline, ‘Constantinople falls into schism and is isolated’ is very unlikely, for we are all hoping and praying that this temptation will be resisted by those in the Phanar.

Against this disturbing background, the foundation by the Russian Orthodox Church of an Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe, on hold for fifteen (and more) long years, is moving forwards despite delays. A great step forward was taken last December, when new bishops were appointed in Moscow for Russian Orthodox Dioceses in Western Europe, making the Metropolia inevitable. Only details such as ROCOR participation and timing remain to be resolved. 2018 is thus becoming another turning-point in the formation of this Metropolia.

Western Europe is after all simply the westernmost tip of Northern Eurasia, 90% of which has long been the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, so that a Russian Orthodox Metropolia here is just a natural extension of this territory. It is rather like the Belarusian Exarchate, with its Metropolitan, eleven dioceses, four monasteries, seminary and five million faithful. With as many faithful, eight dioceses, monasteries and a seminary, Western Europe too will have its own Metropolitan, being the foundation of a new Local Church.

This is also like the Russian-founded Churches in Poland and in the Czech Lands and Slovakia. It may have eight dioceses: Italy and Malta; Spain, Portugal and their islands; France, southern Belgium and western Switzerland; the British Isles and Ireland; Scandinavia; Germany and German Switzerland; Dutch-speaking Benelux; Austria-Hungary. Such a Church will be a centre of resistance amidst anti-Christian and secularist Western Europe. It will be larger than the Western EU core, as it includes Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Brexit Britian.

After all, Brexit was never an objection to Europe, but only to the political construct of the European Union. A Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe is an answer to those who want some sort of ‘Euro-Orthodoxy’ or ‘Brussels Orthodoxy’, a salt that has lost its savour, an Orthodoxy mingled with secularism, new calendarist, masonic, liberal and modernist. For this is proposed by those who want to see in the Church of God female clergy and homosexual marriage! But there is no communion between Christ and Belial, God and Mammon.

It is appropriate to consider the foundation of the Metropolia in this centenary of the martyrdom of Tsar Nicholas II. It was he who built 17 churches in Western Europe, hoping to establish a church in every Western capital, including London, for which plans had been drawn up. Speaking fluent English, French, German and Danish and married to an English-educated, Hessian grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, who fully converted to the Orthodox Faith, he well understood the need for a Russian Orthodox Church of Western Europe. As do we.

 

Foreign-Organized Bolsheviks Massacred the Tsar, His Family and His Servants 100 Years Ago: Four Weeks To Go

In four weeks’ time we will mark the hundredth anniversary of the massacre of Imperial Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II and his Family. On 17 July 1918 their foreign-organized captors herded the family into a basement of a house in Ekaterinburg, at the meeting point between Europe and Asia. Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra, their daughters Olga (22) Tatiana (21), Maria (19), Anastasia (17) and Alexei (13) fell under a hail of bullets. In a ritual of evil the family’s corpses and those of three loyal servants and the family doctor were then stripped naked, mutilated, disfigured, burned with petrol and acid and secretly buried. So fell Christian Russia, which had for over 900 years resisted both the Mongol-Tartar hordes from the East and the Catholic-Protestant hordes from the West, keeping the balance in the world from these extremists.

Throughout the ‘Heartland’, from Kaliningrad to the Bering Straits, stretching nearly half-way around the northern third of the world to three Continents, and beyond that in oases of Holy Rus outside the Russian Lands, Russian Orthodox Christians this year celebrate. We celebrate the martyrdom of the last Christian Emperor and regret the fall of the Christian Empire after 1600 years. With Church services and conferences, monuments and museums, art galleries and films, it will be hard to forget the tragedy – except in the atheist West. Perhaps the lack of interest is due to being anti-Christian and so being Russophobic, since the essence of Russophobia is hatred for Christianity? After all, atheism is always negative, since it starts with a negation.

The so-called Russian Revolution was a coup similar to most other Western-engineered ‘regime changes’ before and since. Jacob Schiff, (1847-1920), the Wall Street banker who had financed Japan during the Japanese War against Russia (1904-1905), publicly boasted of his success in bringing about the coup, with the help of mainly aristocratic Russian traitors and apostates. Imperial Christian gold reserves weighed 1,311 tonnes: they went to the West and not to the people. In 1911 the St. Louis Dispatch had published a cartoon by Bolshevik insider Robert Minor. His published cartoon portrays Karl Marx with a book entitled Socialism under his arm, standing amid a cheering crowd on Wall Street.

Gathered around and greeting him with enthusiastic handshakes are characters identified as John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, John D. Ryan of National City Bank, Morgan partner George W. Perkins and Teddy Roosevelt, leader of the Progressive Party. Western corporations moved in for the kill; Ford, General Electric, International Harvester, Caterpillar etc. Gulag slaves, whom Trotsky-Bronstein dubbed White Negroes, worked harder and cost less than those employed in the West. Over 1,000 Gulag camps were scattered across the bankster colony. The United States and Britain invested heavily in the blood-soaked Soviet regime.

The Romanov Dynasty was primarily made up of Europe’s royal houses. The blood of the martyrs was that of England, Denmark, Greece, Germany, Romania, Serbia and the Habsburgs, as well as that of Russia. The martyred Romanovs could lay claim to being of the essence of Europe’s royal houses, not so much a Russian as a European dynasty. There were 53 Romanovs living in Russia when Tsar Nicholas II was removed from his throne on 15 March 1917. Eighteen of them were slaughtered in heart-wrenching circumstances. 100 years on we now await the coming Tsar, the next Christian Emperor from the Romanov family, who alone can through Christ restore sanity in this world gone mad.

 

Homosexuality and the Problem of the Orthodox Episcopate

The scandal caused by the recent article of Metr Kallistos Ware on homosexuality has been well answered by a US convert in a typically Biblical way (1). Like the previous scandal on Metr Kalllistos’ views concerning the possible ordination of priestesses, it reveals the inherent Anglicanism of His Grace, which is why one of his Phanariot fellow-bishops calls him ‘o anglikanos’. This ingrained Anglicanism was already clearly visible in the very first edition of his book ‘The Orthodox Church’, which expressed the views of a young and idealistic Anglican scholastic looking in on the Church from the outside. Written for those outside the Church in an almost British public school civil service report style, the book was largely ignored by Orthodox on the inside.

It is doubtful if the ivory tower views expressed above really affect anyone in the Church outside the convert fringes and the academic ghetto. I do not think that any of my 600 parishioners have even heard of Metr Kallistos. Everything is simple for Orthodox who live outside the academic world, with its often refined and indeed rather effeminate ways: there is inside the Tradition and there is outside the Tradition. We are inside; what goes on outside is really not our concern. May God guide such people away from bookish secularism and flawed compromises towards the Church and Her inner and mystical understanding and age-old wisdom. This is sent down to the repentant by the Holy Spirit, is so lovingly cherished inside the monasteries and the parishes and is utterly different from mere academic understanding.

However, this issue does raise the problem of the Orthodox episcopate in the Western world and its frequent isolation from the parishes and the monasteries. This isolation, together with the frequent political captivity of the episcopate, are responsible for the lack of leadership it has often displayed over recent decades. True, a few Orthodox bishops come from widowed priests and even from priests whose wives have entered convents. However, the vast majority of bishops have always come and always will come from the monasteries. This is fine, providing that we understand that although bishops should be monks, only a few monks are suitable to become bishops.

The problem, especially in the Diaspora in Western Europe, the Americas and Australia, is that for decades most of the bishops have never been monks, but have simply been unmarried. This is not at all the same thing, for, inevitably, some of these bishops have been homosexuals and in some places and in some jurisdictions this, notoriously, has been and is the prevalent practice. I could draw up a list of several dozen such bishops, whom I have met over the last 45 years. The result has been that these bishops have in turn ordained homosexuals and some married clergy have endured persecution from their bishops and their ordinees, with their homosexual backbiting and narcissism. Thus, the episcopate of one group in North America used to be known as ‘a gay mafia’. And this is not just a problem among new calendarists and others on the liberal fringes. Notorious too are the episcopates of some uncanonical old calendarist groups.

Here we must be honest. If the episcopate has often been tainted, it is surely the fault of all of us. Monks, and therefore monasteries, and therefore bishops, do not grow on trees. They come from devout families and from parishes. The extraordinary decadence of Church life, especially over the last 100 years, is responsible for the weak episcopate. What we do not want is married bishops (the error of the schismatic renovationists in Soviet Russia), what we want is the restoration of monastic life, which is virtually non-existent in some Local Churches, resulting in all these scandals, which are, sadly, so well-known. What we need is genuine monastic bishops, continent heterosexuals, real men with vigour and energy, who are close to the parishes and our spades are spades language, who can understand ordinary Orthodox, without academic theorizing and head in the clouds language. However, the Church is not a welfare State where such bishops magically appear from above. They are created by us: we get the episcopate that we deserve.

 

Note 1:

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/2018/06/kallistos-ware-comes-out-for-homosexual-marriage/

Metropolitan Kallistos and The Wheel Fr. Lawrence Farley Metropolitan Kallistos and The Wheel Fr. Lawrence Farley If a respected author writes for a publication whose known purpose is the promotion of a particular agenda, then by that very act he lends credence and credibility to that agenda.

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/2018/06/met-kallistos-clearly-implies-that-the-church-should-bless-committed-same-sex-

https://orthodoxlife.org/contemporary-issues/kallistos-ware-homosexuality-humphrey/

On War and Military Saints

At first sight it may seem strange that there are military saints, soldiers who became holy martyrs. But we can think of many examples from many countries: St Sabbas the Commander (+ 272), St George (+ 303), St Dimitry (+ 304), St Alban (+ 305), St Theodore the Recruit (+ 306), St Theodore the Commander (+ 319), St Alfred the Great (+ 899), St Alexander Nevsky (+ 1263) and more recently the admiral, St Thedore (Ushakov) (+ 1817).

True, in paradise there will be no armies, because there will be no war, just as in paradise there will be no police and no prisons because there will be no crime. But we live in the real world as it is and anyone from any background can become a saint. Indeed, in the Gospels, there is no condemnation of the soldiers who appear there and, one of them, the centurion, is praised and another, Longinus, who stood at the foot of the cross and confessed that Christ is indeed the Son of God, became a saint.

And yet in the Book of Exodus the sixth commandment states: ‘Thou shalt not kill’. However, from the same chapter and the following chapters, it is clear that this means that we must not murder out of hatred or for some other evil reason, for instance, because we want to get someone else’s money or property, or out of love of glory. But does this mean that we could kill someone for another reason? For example, if we saw someone in the street trying to kill someone to get their money, does this mean that we should defend that person?

Suppose we were an armed policeman and we saw a terrorist with a gun or bomb and he was threatening to kill lots of people, elderly people, women and children among them, and he could not see us and we had the chance to stop him and that resulted in killing him, would that be forbidden? Of course not, it would be irresponsible of us not to act in defence of others. In such situations where we are able to defend others, not to defend would simply be cowardice on our part.

The fact is that in this world we are often faced by choices and the choice we have to make is what we call ‘the lesser evil’. However, we must be very careful here: such a choice applies only in the case of defending others. So in every country armed forces are controlled by something called ‘The Ministry of Defence’. But do the armed forces really defend? Sadly, they often seem to do the opposite and attack, to offend.

It is the same with us. If we are aggressive and attack others, even killing them, that is wrong. Indeed, priests and monks are forbidden from taking up weapons to defend themselves. But if we are defending those who are weaker than ourselves, that can be justified. Here there is no hatred for an individual, just the responsible desire to protect others. Here there is no selfishness, we are not defending ourselves or our property or money or showing off our strength, we are protecting others, perhaps people we do not even know.

Yes, as Christians we are called on to love our enemies, but that means not to feel no personal hatred for them. Why? Because they are victims of their bad passions, the victims of evil. So to love our enemies does not mean that we should not defend others. War in defence of the weak is a lesser evil than declining war and surrendering to the power of barbaric terrorists. A soldier for us is not some self-satisfied murderer, but a noble hero who sacrifices himself by defending the weak.

 

(First Published in the Youth Magazine of the Colchester Orthodox Parish, Searchlight, Issue 5, June 2018)

Questions and Answers: Early June 2018

Q: How can you speak of a ROCOR Diocese in this country? It is so small it does not exist. So what can it contribute?

A: You would have been quite right at any time between the mid-eighties and until recently. I remember coming here on loan from Paris in 1994 because the London convent did not have a priest or any services, such was the catastrophic situation! However, before that period you are quite wrong and you are wrong again today, ever since the start of the restoration of our Diocese under Metr Hilarion and Bishop Irenei. It is now bigger than it was in the fifties and sixties and may grow a great deal more yet, as we are freed to expand, using all our energy and enterprise that had been bottled up for so many decades. The Patriarchal Diocese here, laboured with a ‘foreign’ name with a compromising history, called a ‘potemkin diocese’ by one its own priests, also has its difficulties.

Therefore, it is clear that ROCOR, with about 600 parishes outside the Russian Lands and the Patriarchate, with about 300 parishes outside the Russian Lands, mainly in Western Europe, need one another. They are like two pieces of a puzzle, each with its limitations, each with its strengths. For example, ROCOR has little money and few bishops, the Patriarchate has money, political help from embassies and an almost limitless supply of potential bishops (2,000 at the last count). However, generally ROCOR has local knowledge, not just languages, but knowledge of local mentalities and culture and pastoral ability. The average ROCOR priest in Europe speaks three or four languages: the average Patriarchate priest just one.

Unlike ROCOR, the Patriarchate is politically well-connected; however, ROCOR is free, as we saw in the recent Skripal case, and unburdened by the bureaucracy and centralization in the Patriarchate. It was from such formalist pre-Revolutionary bureaucracy that ROCOR has had such difficulty escaping right up until the present day and which, sadly, is reviving in Russia. Bureaucracy is not part of Church Tradition, but is alien to the Holy Spirit, being of the things of men. It belongs to religion, not to faith, to institutions, not to God.

Our Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland can be a useful, perhaps even an essential, part of the future Local Metropolia and then Local Church.

Q: How can we define our Orthodox identity as compared to Non-Orthodox?

A: I expect there are a thousand good ways of expressing answers to this question, but I think I can give you an example of an answer.

Recently, I was in conversation with a fairly senior Anglican priest and I asked him what he thought was the priority to save the Church of England, given that the Archbishop of Canterbury said in 2014 that it could virtually die out by 2050.

He answered that there are currently two trends inside his Church, one was to ‘make disciples’ and the other was ‘to create the kingdom of God’. In his view the first is wrong and the second is right. I (politely) asked him to translate this (for me incomprehensible jargon) into English and he explained that ‘making disciples’ means what we would call ‘proselytism’ or ‘making converts’ (which is alien to the Church), and that ‘creating the kingdom of God’ means trying to act socially or even politically, setting up clubs and groups, taking part in social life, standing for election, appearing in the media, lobbying politicians, holding concerts inside church-buildings etc. (This too is alien to the Church).

I thought that both these options are purely humanistic, turned towards people, not towards God. Our God is Holy and our aim is holiness, ‘acquiring the Holy Spirit’. In his two options there was nothing about holiness. Holiness attracts people long-term because our God works miracles. Everything that he mentioned is purely secondary to us, we transform individuals and society around us through repentance that brings personal holiness; everything else takes second place. We seek the kingdom of God first, then ‘thousands around us will be saved’. And that is the difference between us and Non-Orthodox.

Q: Was Fr George Gapon who led the demonstration against the Tsar in 1905 really Orthodox?

A: He was ordained canonically, but he was very much an extreme left-winger. He belonged to the Social Revolutionary Party and lived with a woman, which was allowed by the Protestant-minded Metr Antony (Vadkovsky) of Saint Petersburg, who was and is very controversial. (Some have suspected that Metr Antony was a freemason, like Protopresbyter George Shavelsky). Fr George Gapon finished very badly, being hanged in 1906 by the violent revolutionary Ruthenberg who had led the 1905 demonstration and terrorist attack on the forces of law and order. I think we can say that Gapon was not only uncanonical but not Orthodox at all. In this he is like Ilya Fundaminsky, who came from one of the richest Jewish families in Russia, became a terrorist, emigrated to France, where he was baptised under Rue Daru, and a few years ago was canonized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople for having been murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz.

Q: What do you think of the decision by a British school that boys must not wear shorts, but skirts, because shorts are gender-specific?

A: Here is the result of what became common here over 50 years ago (in the USA long before) and is now nearly universal – the wearing of trousers by females. The mixing of the sexes causes spiritual confusion. Here is the result. The word ‘sex’ means ‘cut’, in other words men are men and women are women. But we are now in the era of transgenderism and so spiritual catastrophe.

Q: How do we answer critics who say that the Orthodox Church is so old-fashioned that it is antediluvian? I mean we have no women-priests and will never have any, we do not have same-sex marriages, we do not even have pews or organs, which the Non-Orthodox started having already 200-400 years ago. To them we are primitive.

A: What a curious, but also very eloquent viewpoint – antediluvian! I think that people who say such things are themselves ‘diluvian’, that is to say, they have been submerged beneath the Flood of secularism. In that sense we are ‘anti-diluvian’, but not antediluvian! I would answer them that and say that we, on the contrary, are ‘post-diluvian’, that is to say, we are looking forward to what is coming after the present Flood of secularism, to the Kingdom of God, which is coming, one way or the other, and quite soon. They are spiritually primitive – we are not.

Q: Is perfectionism a virtue or a vice?

A: A vice, even, indeed, a spiritual curse. There is an old story of a monk who was a brilliant icon-painter who was praised for his painting. From that moment on he began putting a small mistake into everything he did. Perfectionism is pride, we even say ‘take pride in what you do’. Yes, of course, bodging, Coggeshall jobs and second-rate work is bad, to be avoided, but we should do things as well as we can, but we should know that perfection is beyond us human-beings.

Q: What do you think of the decision by two-thirds of Irish people to legalize child-murder?

A: Once Ireland had agreed to enter the secularist EU, this was inevitable. The same will happen in Poland in a few years time. If you sell your soul to the devil for an EU mess of pottage, here are the consequences.

Q: What do you think are the weaknesses of the European peoples?

A: Any such generalization is bound to have a thousand exceptions and can only be vague. And it would be more pleasant to talk about strengths than weaknesses. But if you insist: Today (I am not talking about Western culture 1,000 years ago or even 500 years ago, which was different) I think all the Western peoples suffer from an almost uncontrollable desire to tell the rest of the world how to live and to meddle in their civilizations. (Why else does the LGBT flag fly over the British Embassy in Minsk?).

More specifically, I think with the Protestant British (and to a large extent the Protestant Dutch and the Swiss Germans), it is a slavish love of money, a real obsession (why else do British media obsessively report Stock Exchange rates and currency values and encourage people to save as soon as they are born?). This enslavement was taken by the British to North America, hence their enslavement to the dollar. With the Germans it is the need to give orders and create order, as we see from their history. With the French it is hedonism, the obsession with the aesthetic, with ‘look’ and ‘image’. With the Italians it is their obsession with all forms of art, as everywhere, for example, in Venice and Florence and as in opera. With the Spanish it is an obsession with blood and cruelty, as we see in the Inquisition, in Goya and in bullfighting. With the Portuguese it is their melancholy regret for what they have lost, as in the fado With the Scandinavians it is obsession with impossible thisworldly justice, which comes from their narrow and worldly Lutheran culture. With the Russians it is the obsessive need to be accepted (which comes from the national inferiority complex, which began with their apostasy from Orthodoxy in the late 17th century and their superficial adoption of Western values). With the Jews it is (not money – which is a nasty anti-Jewish myth), but the obsession with acquiring power, which goes back to the loss of the Temple in Jerusalem after the glory days under David and Solomon.