Daily Archives: June 19, 2015

From Recent Correspondence (June 2015)

Q: From the Church point of view, what do you find newsworthy this month?

A: What a difficult question! There has been so much and the month has not ended yet. There has been the declaration by the Pope of Rome that he may consider returning in repentance to the Church Easter (true, his declaration was very vague and there are other, less repentant interpretations), his meeting with President Putin (despite violent US opposition) and the Pope’s approval of the Russian struggle against the anti-Christian European elite. There has also been the tragic EU-manipulated Synod of the Church of Serbia. And then there has been the inevitable closure of the St Sergius Institute in Paris at long last – over 30 years in the making – after its Archbishop asked it to return to Orthodoxy and it refused.

Politically, there has been the G7 meeting in Hitler’s villa outside Munich and the realization that the G7 is now a rather irrelevant US-led Western ghetto, a little huddle with their backs to the wall, unable ever to pay off their own debts, all the more irrelevant since India has now signed a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union. Then there is the Greek debt crisis (Greece’s debt is only about half of US debt per capita) and the possibility that Greece will at last free itself from EU slavery, after so naively and foolishly joining it thirty years ago. Perhaps economic pain is what Greece needs to lead its people to repentance, just as atheist oppression led Russians to repentance.

However, although it is a very minor event internationally, I would like to mention the transfer of the dismissed Metropolitan Jonah of the group known as ‘The Orthodox Church in America’ (OCA) to the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). Even ten years ago, let alone thirty years ago, such a move would have been unthinkable, even impossible. The only similar event was in 1976 when Metr Antony (Bloom) requested a transfer to ROCOR. (Ironically, that was at the same time as Metr Antony (Bloom) had himself so wrongly refused to receive the then Fr Kallistos (Ware) into the Russian Church from Constantinople.) Metr Antony’s request was quite rightly refused by Metr Philaret for very good canonical reasons. However, in this very different case Metropolitan Jonah has been accepted by the ROCOR Synod in his retired status.

Q: Could this be the beginning of a movement towards ROCOR?

A: Not necessarily, I think it is a personal choice, but it is still symptomatic of a movement of repentance. The OCA is canonically adrift. Where is it going? What is its identity? What is its future? It is a fragment of the Russian Church adrift for the understandable historical reasons of former Uniatism and for political reasons. It used to be a hotbed of modernism. But today if you look at the most solid parts of the OCA, in Alaska, in Canada and in Pennsylvania around St Tikhon’s, it is clear that it is part of the Russian Church, but, for historical reasons, it is not yet part of the canonical and universally recognized Church Outside Russia. And yet that is clearly what the majority of the OCA is, part of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia. I think this event marks the beginning of healing for the OCA.

Q: Surely part of the original problem was ROCOR itself?

A: There was once a problem with politically-minded, nationalistic individuals in ROCOR, but that is in the past. We have moved on and that generation has left or else died out. Today we are in a completely different situation. Indeed, the last two Metropolitans of ROCOR have been Non-Russian, one a Carpatho-Russian Slovak, the present one a Canadian of Ukrainian origin. This means an opening to the whole multinational Russian Orthodox world outside the Russian Lands. ROCOR is moving towards our ultimate aim, to our universal mission, to prepare the path, as St John the Baptist of old.

Q: You ask questions about the identity and future of the OCA, but surely the same questions can be asked of ROCOR?

A: I disagree with you. Our identity is clear, it is in our name. We are that part of the Russian Orthodox Church that is Outside Russia, that is, outside the Russian Lands. On the one hand we have to be absolutely faithful to the Russian Orthodox Church and its Tradition, on the other hand, we have to express ourselves in the language of the country where we live and through the culture of that country, as seen through Russian Orthodox eyes. That is our missionary witness. And that is our future.

Q: Is that not what the OCA has done?

A: The best of it yes, but sadly some in it have lost, or never even had, the Tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church. For example, only a quarter of the OCA parishes keep the Church calendar, others in it have misunderstood and imagined that just because they live in another country and culture, they can therefore compromise our Faith. Instead of looking at the world through Russian Orthodox eyes, they tend to see Russian Orthodoxy through the eyes of the world. That is very clearly the path of apostasy.

Q: You mention the Synod of the Serbian Church. What is the problem?

A: The problem is the new persecution of the Serbian Church. It is worse than the Communist persecution. The episcopate of the Serbian Church is being herded like a flock of intimidated sheep into a corner, threatened by the EU wolf, behind which stand the USA and the new threat of NATO bombing, uranium-tipped shells and even nuclear war. And do not judge, until you have faced persecution yourself.

Q: Why do Serbs not stand up to defend their Church?

A: Because there are too many ‘Serbian Orthodox’, but not enough Orthodox Serbs.

Q: What do you mean by that?

A: I mean that any country only has value inasmuch as it is Orthodox or has values which are accepting of Orthodoxy. As Dostoyevsky said: ‘A Russian without Orthodoxy is rubbish’. That is the same for every country in the world. When I read of drunken British yobs on a stag night in Prague, do I think that they are English? Of course not. Sadly, the same disease is affecting every country in the world. It is the disease of apostasy. And nominal Orthodoxy is not enough to resist that disease.

Q: What has happened to the St Sergius Institute in Paris?

A: It has closed. A lot of money has disappeared. Archbishop Job is trying to restore Orthodoxy there after thirty years of weak bishops who allowed anarchy by promoting the anarchists. It may never re-open. It is another nail in the coffin of the Paris Exarchate.

Q: What is the situation in the Ukraine?

A: The civil war goes on as the puppet junta in Kiev kills the Ukrainian people. The US State Department is now bribing the Patriarchate of Constantinople to involve itself in schismatic groups in the Ukraine, thus compromising next year’s potential Council. But we have hope that by next year the war will all be over and the Ukraine will be free again. Sadly, however, I do not see any sign of repentance on the part of the US and the EU which, as one British politician rightly said, has blood on its hands in the Ukraine.

Q: And in Syria?

A: There too the war goes on, financed by fanatics in Western-backed Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who have created millions of refugees. In Libya Western intervention has also once more proved to be catastrophic and now 65% of Libyans want to flee, looking back on the Khadafi period almost as paradise, rather as many in impoverished and colonized Eastern Europe now regret the Soviet bloc with all its obvious faults. Today, for instance, a decent salary in Romania is 150 euros – per month – if you can get a job at all. This is all the fruit of Western meddling, divide and rule by reducing to poverty. The result of such meddling is mass migration and the break-up of families. The West has caused this. Rule Number One is that you do not destroy something until you have something better to replace it with. But that is exactly what the West did to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, as also in Syria, Iraq, Libya etc.

Q: As regards Syria, surely it is the Muslims who are themselves to blame? They are killing each other?

A: When children argue and those children follow a religion which, like Judaism, has no concept of forgiveness, of turning the other cheek, you do not give them expensive arms to kill each other with. But that is precisely what Saudi Arabia and Qatar (and Israel), backed by the USA, have done, whether in Syria, the Lebanon or elsewhere. Remember that Al-Qaeda and Islamic State are CIA inventions to defeat the Soviet Union and divide the Muslim world. The whole Muslim problem began when Britain and then the USA backed Israel as a Western bridgehead in the Arab world. When Western nations turn into terrorist states (that is how Western nations are perceived in the Muslim world) and invade Afghanistan and Iraq, do not be surprised when Muslims turn to terrorism. The radicalization of Muslims was caused by Western governments. Appalling Western terrorism breeds appalling Islamic terrorism.

Q: When did the West set out on this path of apostasy? To what extent was race a factor?

A: I think that there are many misconceptions as regards race and the Western Schism. For example the Neo-Platonist Philip Sherrard presented the Schism as a kind of philosophical dispute between ‘East and West’, between ‘Greek and Latin’ between Plato and Aristotle. True, there was the problem of the Franks, but not for inherent racial reasons, as some modern and rather embittered modern Greek philosophers would have it, but simply because of the mentality which the Franks happened to be the first to adopt. And any race can adopt an anti-Church mentality, as the 20th century showed us. Such racial simplifications completely overlook the multinational nature of the Church. The Church includes Latins like St Hilary of Poitiers and St Ambrose of Milan, Syrians like St Ephraim and St Isaac of Nineveh, Egyptians like St Antony the Great, Georgians like St Nino, not to mention Slavs and so many other nationalities, including Orthodox ‘Franks’ from the period before Charlemagne and from today.

Another point is that although, quite rightly, historians look back to Charlemagne as the real initiator of all the problems, with his massacre of the Saxons and corruption of the Creed, his ramshackle so-called empire was very short-lived. There was a revival of Orthodoxy in the West after him, for example under the Empress Theophano at the end of the tenth century. There was no Schism until the eleventh century and that lasted 100 years; in other words the Schism was not a single event, but a process.

We can do no better than quote the Catholic religious historian, Christopher Dawson: ‘It was not until the eleventh century that the religious bond which united East and West was finally destroyed and Western Christendom emerges as an independent unity, separated alike in culture and religion from the rest of the old Roman world’ (The Making of Europe, P. 47). He relates this to the tenth century and whether ‘feudal barbarism was to capture and absorb the peace-society of the Church or whether the latter could succeed in imposing its ideals and its higher culture on the feudal nobility’ (P. 271). ‘It was not until the eleventh century that the military society (of the barbaric world of northern paganism) was incorporated into the spiritual polity of Western Christendom’ (Pp. 287-288).

In other words the tragedy of the West was that it left the Church and adopted instead the aggressiveness of ‘feudal barbarism’. This, allied with technology, is what lies behind the West’s aggressive imperialism of the second millennium, from 1066 and a couple of decades before that, onwards, and also of the opening years of this already deeply tragic third millennium. We can see this quite clearly in today’s regular gun massacres in the USA. What a culture! Aggression and violence and a society of obesity and mental illness….And you call this civilization?

Q: There is much criticism in the West of President Putin. They have demonized him, making him into a hate-figure. What is the truth?

A: The CIA-fed propaganda is quite shameless, not to say primitive. Of course President Putin, like contemporary Russia, has many faults, but unlike the West, they are both going in the right direction. That is what is important. The name Putin comes from the word ‘put’ which means ‘the path’, ‘the way’. And that is exactly the spiritual meaning of his name, for he is only an instrument. He is not the destination, just part of the way to where we want to go.

Q: What is that destination?

A: Today the atheist West is preaching spiritual death throughout the world. Russia’s spiritual meaning is to preach spiritual life. This is the universal meaning of the coming resurrection of St Seraphim of Sarov for which we must prepare. The West has chosen vulgarity over nobility. We shall not follow. Sadly, we must recognize that when Antichrist comes, he will speak English. It is for us to show him that not all English people will listen to him, that there is a faithful remnant, as in every country throughout the world, that we can speak of nobility, not of vulgarity. It is becoming rapidly apparent, even to those who before resisted – such is repentance – that Orthodox need a Protector, a Guardian, a restored Emperor. A repentant Greece today looks to Russia, a Russia that has thrown off the curse of atheism and apostasy. Many others do the same. We shall not surrender! Christ is victorious!

The Church and Converts


To speak of ‘converts’ in a Church context should sound strange. After all, we never speak of the Mother of God or of the Twelve Apostles or of the Apostle Paul as ‘converts’. And yet they certainly were converts in the sense that they became Orthodox, not having been born to Orthodox families and brought up as such. And the same is true of millions of other Orthodox, including other saints and martyrs. They found their way and nobody called them ‘converts’. So why should we speak of ‘converts’ today? The problem is simply one of integration – or rather lack of it. The Apostles and all the others integrated the Church, that is, they not only joined the Church but rapidly BECAME Orthodox, with every fibre of their being. Only as a result of lack of integration are there today ‘converts’, that is, individuals who are unintegrated into the Church’s way of life and thinking. They come in two forms. What are they?

Two Types of Convert

Firstly, there is the convert who is not converted. Harsh though it may sound, he is like the dog who returns to his own (spiritual) vomit, in the Apostle Peter’s words (2 Peter 2, 22). He comes to the Church with his personal baggage, his own agenda, his own theories and even fantasies, he has ‘read all the books’, he ‘knows everything’ already and wants to impose his curious personal views or anti-Orthodox Establishment conformist views on the Church (see 2 Timothy 3, 7). He is so proud that he believes that he does not have to change, but that the Church has to change – in order to fit in with him! Since he is part of the Establishment, he is superior to a bunch of immigrants and peasants from Eastern Europe!

Sadly, there are many such individuals and there are those who, without any discernment and psychological understanding, prematurely receive them into the Church, long before such individuals have the necessary simplicity and humility. Such individuals never even begin to think in an Orthodox way, let alone begin to live in an Orthodox way. Their religion is all theoretical, headborne, bookish. They are indeed ‘converts’, that is, unconverted. The saddest cases are among those who, having been members of the Church for a few days (yes, it happens) or at most a few months, are then ordained. The damage they do is incalculable; many are later defrocked.

Secondly, there is the opposite extreme of unconverted converts, but they too are wholly conditioned by pride. This is the over-zealous. We see such ‘converts’ or neophytes (‘there is nothing worse than a neophyte’) in modern Islam; some of the worst suicide bombers are converts. Fortunately, in the Church we do not have violence, but there is intellectual violence. These ‘converts’ are those who suffer from ‘zeal not according to knowledge’ (Romans 10, 2), and, as is often said, what a pity that cradle Orthodox do not have such zeal, but what a pity that such ‘converts’ do not have the practical knowledge, borne of experience and time, of cradle Orthodox.

In reality both zeal and knowledge together are required. Just as the convert who is not converted and does not repent always sooner or later lapses, so the over-zealous also lapses, nowadays often into old calendarist sects. In ROCOR for years we tried to moderate such converts, but some we failed with and they caused us trouble and eventually lapsed, finding themselves outside the Church. Clearly, their problems were never theological, but psychological, sometimes even pathological.

What is to be done? We suggest three remedies:

1. Avoid Separation

What must be avoided at all costs is setting up convert groups separately from the rest of the local diocese of the Church, for example in separate – and indeed separatist – ‘deaneries’. This often happens when there is no local bishop and the bishop of another nationality decides, sometimes through lack of any interest in the local situation, to ‘delegate’ responsibility. Given that the essence of the problem of ‘converts’ is the fact that they remain precisely ‘converts’, they need to frequent cradle Orthodox, not live separately. Otherwise, how else will they learn and live the Faith?

We have seen the pernicious effects of ‘deaneries’ in various jurisdictions. One such cultish and sectarian ‘deanery’, in France, used to order its members to dress in black and the men all seemed to have to have long hair and shaggy beards, as ordered by their guru! The Russian faithful used to call them ‘the crows’…Of course they soon ended up outside the Church. In another case, nearly all the members of a deanery were normal, integrated Orthodox, but it was the convert dean himself who left his deanery and the Church – again the bishop of another nationality lived in another country and did not know what was happening.

In a third case there was an untrained clergyman in a deanery of untrained clergy who gave communion to Non-Orthodox; the dean did nothing about it; the bishop of another nationality was again an absentee living in another country. Other Orthodox naturally refused to concelebrate with the clergyman – so he was totally isolated. One clergy member of this deanery, ordained a few days after joining the Church!, was then arrested by the police for criminal affairs. The scandals went on…..But they could all have been avoided if there had been no administrative separatism. Administrative separatism leads to convert groups becoming marginal, indeed, becoming withered branches. They are on their way out of the Church.

2. Debrainwash First

The second thing to avoid is prematurely receiving those who have ‘baggage’, generally those who have belonged to a heterodox confession, especially clergy who have been trained, or rather brainwashed, into a heterodox way of thinking. They think they know it all when in fact they know nothing. I well remember visiting a group set up by such an individual who had been ordained prematurely. The group certainly was rabidly anti-ecumenist but not Orthodox, but I was never able to put my finger on what felt so deeply wrong and spiritually unhealthy. Another visitor to the group expressed it for me. An ex-Anglican, he described the group as ‘old-fashioned Anglo-Catholics with icons’, with all the strangeness of such a community. Another sectarian little group was described to me as ‘an upper middle-class Anglican club’ and a third group as ‘a clique for well-off Anglicans only’.

Individuals should never be received into the Church, let alone ordained, until they have got their heterodox past out of their systems; and that can take years and even decades. A heterodox past is, sad to say, a spiritual poison, and must be evacuated before the life-giving spring of Orthodoxy can take the newly vacant place. Care must be taken here with age. Age makes it much more difficult to integrate. Why? Simply because there is so much more baggage from the past, so much more to jettison. We have often found that one who is 20 when he is received into the Church often only begins to be fully integrated when he is 40, in other words, it takes one year inside the Church to overcome every year spent outside the Church. This may sound strict, but we know individuals who have been in the Church for decades and they have never integrated – usually because they have refused to mix with other nationalities – with cradle Orthodox – either because they think they know everything and have nothing to learn, or else because they are simply racist. So much depends on attitude, on being open and showing willingness to learn – or not; the one year for one year need not be binding.

Any Orthodox community must be inclusive; sadly this is far from the case. There are several groups where I have never felt at home because, like the mass of English people, I have never been an Anglican or had any heterodox background. Orthodox from Eastern Europe also simply boycott such groups and prefer to stay at home because they there is no spiritual nourishment to be had in such groupings, just very tiresome and ‘clever’ chit-chat. We know that something feels wrong, that there is no prayerful atmosphere. Such groupings are inwardly sectarian, cut off from the mainstream, even though they may be in a canonical jurisdiction. Even sadder is when such groupings actually try to impose their ideology and calendarism (new or old) on cradle Orthodox. True, such groupings do attract a few Orthodox from Eastern Europe, but they themselves are recent and unintegrated converts, uneducated in the Faith as a way of life, or else long ago lapsed. They like such ‘easy’ groups where there is no confession, you can sit down and fasting is little observed.

3. Ensure that Cradle Orthodox Communities are Receptive

the first two problems are brought by converts, there is a third problem and this is caused by cradle Orthodox. If new Orthodox are to be integrated, it is clear that they must frequent cradle Orthodox who want to integrate them. But how can this be done if the cradle Orthodox are themselves closed, preferring to live in a self-created ghetto? Here local anecdotes are countless. One convert was told by a Greek priest ‘to go away’ (actually he used much ruder language than that, but we shall not repeat it). Another was told that he could not join the Greek Church because ‘you are not dark enough’. A third was told that he ‘cannot become Greek’ as he did not have the ’right blood’.

Little wonder that the Anglican Diocese of London has six priests of Greek origin: having been born in this country and lost their Greek language, they decided that the Greek Church was no place for them, even though they were ‘dark enough’. Sadly, these Greek examples that come to mind are only the tip of the iceberg and all nationalities and all countries are concerned. Clearly the people concerned, clergy included, have never understood the last words of St Matthew’s Gospel about ‘teaching all nations and baptizing them’ (Matt. 28, 19). Nobody wants to join a ghetto and in case there is little to learn from the ghetto because it is a club, just as ‘ethnic’ as convert clubs.

Theological ignorance or simply racism? Whatever it is, such churches clearly have no episcopal leadership and deserve to close down – which is exactly what happens to them, as we have seen countless times both here and abroad. The immigrants die out and so do their uncared for churches. That is their own fault. Those who live in the ghetto die in the ghetto. In the words of the Gospel – and however harsh they may sound, these are the words of our Lord – ‘Let the dead bury their dead’ (Matt. 8, 22).


In real Church life, and not sectarian and cultish Diaspora hothouses of a few inward-looking neophytes, there is no such things as ‘converts’, there is simply the Church. Why? Because where the Church is the Church, people seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all other things are added unto them (Matt. 6, 33). In other words, such new Orthodox, not ‘converts’, have a healthy attitude and bring no personal agendas, no impositions on the Church, no racism, remain open-minded, show willingness to learn and mix with cradle Orthodox (if possible even visiting countries where Orthodox parish and monastic life has existed for centuries), putting the Kingdom of God and humble righteousness first. And this is the key to swift integration, this is the end of ‘converts’.